Sunday, October 29, 2017

What kind of evidence is "best?" (part 1)

This is an argument to establish the nature of best evidence for making an abductive God argument, Abduction is a form of inference like deduction and induction:

Abduction or, as it is also often called, Inference to the Best Explanation is a type of inference that assigns special status to explanatory considerations. Most philosophers agree that this type of inference is frequently employed, in some form or other, both in everyday and in scientific reasoning. However, the exact form as well as the normative status of abduction are still matters of controversy.[1]

An example given by Douven: two friends have a falling out. Then they are seen jogging together. You assume they must have reconciled. This assumption is not mandated by the logic of the case. There could be any number of reasons why people who have a falling out would jog together.[2] In deductive reasoning the premises mandate the conclusions. If we know the meaning of the terms and we know the premises are true the conclusions must be true if they are logically derived. All A's are B. a is an A. Therefore, a is a B. With induction, the premises are not true by definition, but are usually derived as a matter of probability. With abduction the premises may be probable but the real warrant for inference is the explanatory power of the idea not probability per se. [3]

Explanatory power is not proof, but it is a guide to inference, as Peter Lipton tells us. According to Lipton not all induction is probability. He draws the line between deductive and inductive at the point where it is no longer impossible for the premises to be true and the conclusions false; when that's the case its deductive. Inductive is weighing probability not proof. [4] Inductive considerations arise out of in-determinism. It is because outcomes are not necessitated that we can have probability. In assessing the nature of the best explanation, Lipton finds that justification supports explanatory power because with in-determinism we can only go by likelihood. If likelihood were the only guide abduction reduces to induction, or a form of it. Rather he finds that we can't construe best as likeliest alone, but we should view abduction as a guide to inference, not as proof. He urges us to see explanatory factors as guides to illuminating likelihood rather than the other way around.[5]

To use my own examples: suppose someone argues that its not likely that the former friends are jogging together because they made up; the former friends could be jogging together so that they can insult each other. That doesn't seem believable because one hates conflict, the other is too mature. Thus that is a less likely explanation than the theory that they made up. How would likelihood work with the question of God? How to establish probability of an issue such as the reality of God, where there is an inability to produce empirical proof? Such a discussion could not help but be dominated by prior convictions. Yet if we value explanation and we have reasonable parameters for what needs explaining the explanatory power might give a clue to likelihood. This means we are still left with how to establish “best.”

Gabby and Woods offer a rule to determine explanatory power. The rule sets up a criterion of comparison between hypotheses. At least one element must be more plausible in a given hypothesis than its counter parts in competing hypotheses.[6]  They develop much more complex statistical theorems. The problem is, even though setting up criteria of comparison is a god idea, we still can't just assert the likelihood of God, or even the unlikelihood. The individual must decide the values by which to set parameters for comparison. For example if we value explanations that assume a “why” to the universe then God as explanation seems more likely. If we assume flat out there can be no why then we have already eliminated God from consideration. The problem in making a God argument is that God is not given in sense data. Thus God can't be the subject of empirical investigation. What we can do is to specify parameters and criteria that prepare us to make educated decisions about belief. In other words, we can't draw a picture of the hole in a doughnut, but we can draw the doughnut around the hole. In the case of God that means rational warrant justifies belief. Rational warrant means that a given belief is possible and plausible, thus not irrational.

The argument made in chapter one basically turns upon the hierarchical nature of organizing principles. One can argue that TS, pointing to God, is the best means of conceptualizing the hierarchical nature of reality. We can also argue other properties related to organizing are best explained by God, such the necessary and all pervasive nature of TS's. Below I will provide observations designed to focus the argument. I will also provide criteria to determine the best explanation.

We might be able to say that the best explanation would account for all the data or account for the most crucial data than other explanations. We could also stipulate that the explanation be the most simple as long as we don't confuse conceptual simplicity with absence of data, or simplicity of structure. For example when Dawkins argues that God would have to be more complex than the universe he creates, he's assuming the laws of physics apply to God.[7] He's ignoring conceptual simplicity. Most of the great apologists such as Aquinas saw God as conceptually simple.[8] In other words God is not made up of physical parts. This raises the issue of Occam's razor and parsimony. Parsimony is a principle akin to abductive reasoning used in science where direct empirical data is lacking. It was based upon Occam's razor but the two are not identical. Atheists have, on occasion, taken Occam's razor as a means of ruling God out of the equation. They either assert that God is not necessary, thus Occam's dictum about not multiplying beyond necessity applies to God, or they think Occam said take the simplest of two hypotheses. [9]

They are also confusing Occam's razor with Parsimony. Occam was a priest and he believed in God he didn't think the razor got rid of God. Moreover, what the razor really says is that we should not multiply entities beyond necessity. [10]Atheists assume that since they don't believe in God then God is not necessary. This is begging the question. They are asserting the lack of a God and using that position to deny the God arguments. It's also using the wrong idea of what necessity means in this case.

To understand what Occam was really talking about we must understand his nominalism.

three senses of nominalism:

(1) Denial of metaphysical universals: applies to Occam.

(2) reduce one's ontology to bare minimum, streamline categories: applies to Occam.

(3) Nix abstract entities, depending upon what one means; here Occam may or may not have been a nominalist in this sense. He did not believe in mathematical entities but he did believe in abstraction such as whiteness, or humanity.

Ockham removes all need for entities in seven of the ten traditional Aristotelian categories; all that remain are entities in the categories of substance and quality, and a few entities in the category of relation, which Ockham thinks are required for theological reasons pertaining to the Trinity, the Incarnation and the Eucharist, even though our natural cognitive powers would see no reason for them at all. As is to be expected, the ultimate success of Ockham's program is a matter of considerable dispute.[11] He was not getting rid of God. Occam's razor never allows us to deny what Spade calls "putative entities" which would definitely include God.[12] It merely bids us refrain from positing them without good reason. Of course our atheist friends would tell us there is no good reasons to assert God, but answering that is the point of making God arguments. In fact for Occam humans can't really know what is necessary. "For Ockham, the only truly necessary entity is God; everything else, the whole of creation, is radically contingent through and through. In short, Ockham does not accept the Principle of Sufficient Reason.."[13]This is not a contradiction because all the razor says is refrain form multiplying entities without good reason, not “rub out of existence of all concepts that can't be empirically verified.” Note that he includes God as the only truly necessary entity. Thus atheist are violating Occam's razor in trying to use it on God. Of course there is equivocation in the use of the term “necessary.” Atheists making the argument applying the razor to God speak of causal necessity while believers rest their ontological arguments upon ontological necessity.

1 Igor, Douven, "Abduction", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (Spring 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = . Accessed 8/3/15.
2 Ibid.
3 Ibid.
4 Peter Lipton, Inference to The Best Explanation. New York: Routledge, International Library of Philosophy, 2nd ed.,2004, 6.
5 Ibid., 207-208.
6 Dov M. Gabby and John Woods. A Practical Logic of Cognitive Systems: Vol 2, The Reach of Abduction...Amsterdam, The Neatherlands.:Elsevier B.V., 2005, 160.
7  Ricard Dawkins. The God Delusion, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1st edition, 2006.
8 Thomas Aquinas, The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas Second and Revised Edition, 1920Literally translated by Fathers of the English Dominican ProvinceOnline Edition Copyright © 2008 by Kevin Knight Nihil Obstat. F. Innocentius Apap, O.P., S.T.M., Censor. Theol.Imprimatur. Edus. Canonicus Surmont, Vicarius Generalis. Westmonasterii.New Advent Catholic Encyclopidia, URL: accessed 8/28/15.
9  “How to Reason: Section 8, Ocam's Razor,” God Would be An Atheist. URL: 8, Occam's Razor,” , accessed 8/6/15
This is a website for atheism, it is not a scholarly site. In fact there is no listing of an author.. I quote it as an example of popular misconception.The site says: “Occam's Razor: in any situation offering two or more explanations, the simpler or simplestexplanationis always best.” Documentation of atheists using Occam to disprove God: Robert T. Carroll, “Occum's Razor,”The Skeptic's Dictionary. Url: Accessed 8/6/15

What is known as Occam's razor was a common principle in medieval philosophy and was not originated by William, but because of his frequent usage of the principle, his name has become indelibly attached to it. It is unlikely that William would appreciate what some of us have done in his name. For example, atheists often apply Occam's razor in arguing against the existence of a god on the grounds that any god is an unnecessary hypothesis. We can explain everything without assuming the extra metaphysical baggage of a divine being.
10  C.K. Brampton, "Nominalism and the Law of Parsimony." The Modern School Men, Volume 41, Issue 3, (March 1964), 273-281.
11   Paul Vincent Spade and Claude Panaccio, "William of Ockham", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), Fall 2011 (substantive content change) [new author(s): Spade, Paul Vincent; Panaccio, Claude] on lin resourse
URL: accessed 8/18/15.
12 Spade, et al, Ibid.
13 Ibid.


Joseph Hinman (Metacrock) said...

brovo! brilliant!

7th Stooge said...

Once again, I have died and been reborn in your genius!!!

Joseph Hinman (Metacrock) said...

what does that mean?

7th Stooge said...

It's actually a quote from a SNL sketch from about 15 yrs ago. Just meant as a joke. You were looking for people to tell you how brilliant your post was and I complied ;)

Joseph Hinman (Metacrock) said...

right. so you didn't like it?

im-skeptical said...

Waiting for part 2.