28 August, 2010

Do you exist for certain?

It's an interesting question. In order to know anything for certain, you must first be sure of your own existence - otherwise what you claim to know could simply be a by-product of the delusion that you exist (i.e. none of it could be true).

The classic argument for this, cogito ergo sum, was provided by Descartes:

I think (premise), therefore I am (conclusion).

A criticism of this is that Descartes is begging the question in his premise. That is, by stating 'I think' you are already assuming that you exist, and so you are assuming the conclusion from the outset. This seems like a valid criticism, but I would suggest that it is simply impossible to prove your own existence without begging the question.

I am exploring this possibility in my discussions on the Premier website forums. Sye TenB (a presuppositionalist - see here for background) claims that he is certain that God exists, and that he is also certain of x, y and z. My challenge to him is to provide his own proof that he exists for certain. To clarify, I'm not asking him to prove it to me, but just to provide the proof that he claims he has. He has so far refused to do so; instead he continues to try and shift the discussion back onto my 'worldview'. The reason that he does this is blatantly obvious - he cannot prove that he exists for certain without begging the question.

As I see it (and please correct me if there are more), the two possible proofs he has are:

1) Descartes' proof, which he doesn't accept because it begs the question

2) God has revealed to him that he exists in such a way that he can be certain. Ignoring the other issues with this statement, if he uses this proof, he is also begging the question as shown here...

P1: God can reveal things for certain
P2: God has revealed to me that I exist for certain
C: I exist for certain

The conclusion is being assumed by the use of the word me in P2.

Even though he refuses to critically examine his own worldview, if he is intellectually honest (which he claims to be), Sye is forced to concede that he cannot prove that he exists for certain. This negates any other claims to certainty as anything he thinks could simply be a part of the delusion that he exists.


Sye could accept that we all know we exist for certain, and then continue with his argument. But he can't do this because this would mean that certainty is possible without God - God is not needed for cogito ergo sum to hold.

So, do you exist for certain Sye? If so, please provide the proof.

[Note: Dawson Bethrick has posted a rebuttal of Sye's website here]


Edit (30/08/10):

As can be seen in the comment section, Sye has declined my request to answer the question, but Dan Marvin has offered the following proof that he is certain he exists:

The purple weighs green therefore bathtub penguin the much

It is a very strange proof so I asked him several times if he was sure, and I also gave him the decision as to whether his proof had to conform to logic. I'll let the readers decide if they are convinced. But by Dan's OWN STANDARDS, here is my irrefutable counter-proof that both he and God don't exist:

P1: Mice when buckets you are a joke
P2: Week the go suck a lemon sunshine
C: Dan and God don't exist

Case closed.


Edit (27/10/10):

I am going to keep a running list of each time Sye has evaded answering my simple request: "Do you exist for certain Sye? If so, please provide the proof." - (not necessarily in chronological order)

One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, Fourteen, Fifteen, Sixteen, Seventeen, Eighteen, Nineteen, Twenty

And counting...


26 August, 2010

A paradoxical post

I was reading the Wiki list of paradoxes. Some of them are very clever - and really make you think.

Here are a few of note...

Curry's paradox

If this sentence is true, then there is no God.

If the sentence is true, then what it says is true: namely that "if the sentence is true, then there is no God". Therefore, without necessarily believing that there is no God, or that the sentence is true, it seems we should agree that "if the sentence is true, then there is no God". But then this means the sentence is true. So there is no God. [adapted from the link]

Quite brilliant! Of course, anything can be 'proven' by simply inserting it into the latter half of the sentence, so in reality it is meaningless. I can't quite get my head around it but I expect it's simply due to the limitations of language.


Unexpected hanging paradox

A judge tells a condemned prisoner that he will be hanged at noon on one weekday in the following week but that the execution will be a surprise to the prisoner. He will not know the day of the hanging until the executioner knocks on his cell door at noon that day. Having reflected on his sentence, the prisoner draws the conclusion that he will escape from the hanging. His reasoning is in several parts. He begins by concluding that the "surprise hanging" can't be on a Friday, as if he hasn't been hanged by Thursday, there is only one day left - and so it won't be a surprise if he's hanged on a Friday. Since the judge's sentence stipulated that the hanging would be a surprise to him, he concludes it cannot occur on Friday. He then reasons that the surprise hanging cannot be on Thursday either, because Friday has already been eliminated and if he hasn't been hanged by Wednesday night, the hanging must occur on Thursday, making a Thursday hanging not a surprise either. By similar reasoning he concludes that the hanging can also not occur on Wednesday, Tuesday or Monday. Joyfully he retires to his cell confident that the hanging will not occur at all.

It's a funny one. It's clearly wrong, and yet it seems foolproof. I like the end part:

The next week, the executioner knocks on the prisoner's door at noon on Wednesday — which, despite all the above, will still be an utter surprise to him. Everything the judge said has come true.

So it was a surprise after all!


Barber paradox

Suppose there is a town with just one male barber; and that every man in the town keeps himself clean-shaven: some by shaving themselves, some by attending the barber. It seems reasonable to imagine that the barber obeys the following rule: He shaves all and only those men in town who do not shave themselves. Under this scenario, we can ask the following question: Does the barber shave himself? Asking this, however, we discover that the situation presented is in fact impossible:

- If the barber does not shave himself, he must abide by the rule and shave himself.

- If he does shave himself, according to the rule he will not shave himself.

This is, of course, an applied version of Russell's paradox. I actually prefer the library book example:

Imagine a library that has catalogs for each section. It has a catalog for the science section, one for the British literature section, one for American literature, one for history and so on. These catalogs are also books in their own right, so they may also be listed in catalogs. Now it also has a master catalog, which lists all books which do not list themselves. Now the question is, does the master catalog list itself? If it does, then on the premise that it lists those books that do not list themselves, it doesn’t list itself. If it doesn’t list itself, then by the same logic, it does.


Liar paradox

An oldie but a goodie. The simplest version of the paradox is this:

This statement is false.

If the statement is true, everything asserted in it must be true. However, because the statement asserts that it is itself false, it must be false. So the hypothesis that it is true leads to the contradiction that it is false. Yet the sentence cannot be false for that hypothesis also leads to contradiction. If the statement is false, then what it says about itself is not true. Hence, it is true. Under either hypothesis, the statement is both true and false.

A criticism of the liar paradox is that it is self-referencing. However, a variation exists that does not self-reference:

Card paradox

Suppose there is a card with statements printed on both sides:

Front: The sentence on the other side of this card is TRUE.

Back: The sentence on the other side of this card is FALSE.

Trying to assign a truth value to either of them leads to a paradox.

I presented a similar argument before using newspapers to show that logical contradictions exist. Neither of the sentences employs self-reference; however, this type of paradox does employ circular referencing. This criticism has also been overcome by a variation that does not self-reference or circular-reference:

Yablo's paradox

The paradox arises from considering the following infinite set of sentences:

(S1): for all k > 1, Sk is false
(S2): for all k > 2, Sk is false
(S3): for all k > 3, Sk is false

The set is paradoxical, because it is unsatisfiable (contradictory), but this unsatisfiability defies immediate intuition. Moreover, none of the sentences refers to itself, but only to the subsequent sentences; this leads Yablo to claim that his paradox does not rely on self-reference. As it continues to infinite, it does not employ circular reference.



20 August, 2010

God humbled by Rubik's Cube

I suck at Rubik's Cube. Nevertheless, I can solve any possible combination in 20 moves or less.

Yep, that's right.

Well, OK, I can in theory.

Some people over in California did a science and proved that the lowest number of moves in which all possible Rubik's Cube combinations can be solved - the so-called 'God number' - is 20. This loosely means that God is no better than me at Rubik's Cube. He is restricted by the same limitations. Nice to know.

The guys over at Premier are having a wee debate on the implications of this (that God cannot solve all combinations in less moves) if you want to have a look see...

Alternatively...there is always this method:


17 August, 2010

It's a thin line between genius and...

Move back a few metres and look at this photo (or just squint fiercely)...

[Hat tip to Fergus at the Premier forums]


16 August, 2010

Just a test

I've sold my soul and signed up for AdSense. My blog doesn't get a lot of traffic - maybe 30-40 hits a day - so I'm gonna give it a little while and see if it is worth it or not. If it's a negligible amount, I'll just get rid of it.

But hey, if I get a few quid every month, then what harm, eh?


10 August, 2010

Pedantic yes, important no, but gonna post it anyway...

I posted this over at SMRT - I just wanted to put it on the record here too.

Sye, in his many dealings with people [at SMRT], has always refused to refute the notion that an Invisible Pink Hammer, Invisible Pink Unicorn, Flying Spaghetti Monster, etc could easily be inserted into his proof instead of Sye's particular god. These examples are all equally as plausible to be the source of everything as all that is needed to make a presupp argument is some sort of transcendent being that can have always existed and that notions of absoulteness can be derived from. His rationale for not engaging in these is essentially that he does not waste his time dealing with positions that his opponent doesn't actually hold. He also did this with Stephen Law's accounts for logic - he refused to address them because Law would not commit himself to any of them.

Well I've caught Sye doing the exact same thing here.

In his back and forth with an evidentialist Christian called John Fraser (very entertaining by the way - presuppositionalist vs evidentialist), they are discussing whether undeniable proof of the resurrection of Christ would convince a non-believer. Fraser says it would (or should) and Sye says it wouldn't because a non-believer can always say that "Perhaps someday there will be a naturalistic explanation as to why a body which was dead for 3 days came back to life" and that this position would be impossible to refute using evidence. Fraser doesn't like this explanation and claims that no skeptic would ever argue such a ridiculous point. He claims that Sye is being disingenuous because he is arguing for the possibility of a point that nobody has ever made...

Sye's response:
"I’ll make it then John, and you refute me. Here goes: “Perhaps someday there will be a naturalistic explanation as to why a body which was dead for 3 days came back to life.” There ya go John, refute me."

See that?

Sye has adopted a position that he doesn't actually hold which cannot be refuted in order to show the absurdity of his opponents argument. This is exactly the type of argumentation that he wouldn't tolerate us doing in order to show the absurdity of his own position - precisely because it does show the absurdity of his position.

Hypocritical and inconsistent to say the least. Oh and I'm not posting this to prompt a response Sye. I already know you'll just ask why hypocrisy and inconsistency are wrong according to my worldview, blah blah blah, thus evading the whole point. I just wanted to put this inconsistent behaviour of yours on the record. :D

Edit: Below is the response from Sye and my reply

Sye said:
"You cannot imagine the colossal restraint I am showing in not telling you just how stupid your 'point' really is. (Oops, I guess I failed :) I must constantly remind myself, that "there, but by the grace of God, go I."

The fact is that I have stated my own view on numerous occasions, while Stephen Law has never articulated his. If Stephen Law, or any of you, tell me how you justify logic according to your actual views, I will be more than pleased to discuss views that you do not hold...."

*Notice how he did not address my point that he engaged in hypocritical and inconsistent argumentation - instead he just called it stupid. Very convincing*

The absurdity and stubbornness of your position is highlighted by the fact that you refuse to enter a discussion on potential accounts for logic until someone first offers a definitive account for their own use of logic. By contrast, you are happy to discuss rocks with IntellectualNinja [a separate conversation Sye is having with another person on the same thread] prior to a definitive account for logic being offered. It's clear that you simply can't refute Stephen Law's proposed accounts for logic and so have to engineer specific criteria for that particular discussion...

Sye said: "....Until then, as I said, I ain't wastin' me time."

Agreed. You're just wastin' ours...and everyone else's that you encounter...I see you even have an atheist championing your apologetic method over at Premier as it's so spectacularly bad at convincing anyone. The way it's going, I won't be surprised to see a few deconversions before you're done. :D

I will update with any further responses and replies


09 August, 2010

How many times can a creationist contradict himself in 10 minutes?

I'm posting this debate not because you should watch it all (although by all means do), but because of the ridiculous hypocritical argument the creationist employs. I'll talk you through it...

At 2:59, he claims that he knows many scientists that believe in creation, even going so far as to say he has 'lists of scientists' that agree with him - a clear claim to authority. If these scientists believe it, then there must be merit to it. Argument from authority is clearly good.

Then at 5:36, the host says that the vast majority of scientists accept evolution, and the creationist argues against this by stating that 'the majority doesn't decide what's right, what's right is right'. OK, I see, so argument from authority is bad?

But then, straight after this at 6:30, he again claims that he can 'come up with lists of hundreds of scientists' that agree with him. Wait, so this argument is good again?

6:46 The host again says that almost all science departments accept evolution. Creationist: 'That doesn't mean it's right'. Now it's bad again. This is confusing!

11:44 Finally, when the creationist is asked if the list he is talking about is the Discovery Institute list, the response is 'that's only one of many' and he proceeds to show three pages of biologists that agree with him. Not one, not two, but three whole pages. I imagine you can fit a lot of names onto three pages. And they are biologists too! So argument from authority is definitely good.

Of course when asked, the evolutionist states at 11:29 that the majority support evolution because the data supports it and rightly rejects the argument from authority. Plain, simple and consistent.


05 August, 2010

Global warming denier fail

Or climate change, whatever you want to call it...

I don't get the attitude of the deniers - those that reject the notion that humans are contributing to the warming of the planet. Even if you don't accept this fact, fine, but it is still clear that the planet is warming, so quit moaning and lets all work together and do everything we can to slow this down, or at least adapt to it.

Even if we have no power to change the warming of the planet, it is still a good idea to cut back in our use of fossil fuels (a diminishing resource), increase recycling, reduce waste and become generally more efficient. Doing so is a win-win situation, regardless of whether humans contribute to climate change.

Global warming deniers remind me of people who claim that there is no point wearing a bicycle helmet, because if a car hits you at 50 mph you'll die anyway. Stupid logic. What if you are involved in a low-speed accident? That helmet might just save your life.

Wearing a helmet is like reacting positively to climate change. In the worst case scenario, it'll make no difference, sure. But it's worth doing anyway for basic survival purposes.

The point is made nicely by this cartoon...