Monday, September 19, 2016

On Open-mindedness And Gay Marriage

These days, I'm listening to a terrific book called, I Don't Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist. I highly recommend it. It's as much a philosophy discussion as it is an argument. Although I've read many books like this, it's managed to teach me some new things.

The first is the ability to look for self-defeating flaws in arguments, particularly in regards to the exclusionary nature of truth. That is, if I hold that something is true and you believe in something contradictory, I must believe your concept is false. There is no such thing as, "This is the truth for me." After all, if there is no such thing as universal truth, then "this is the truth for me, but not for you" cannot be universally true. Relativism dies from self-inflicted wounds. I'd seen this trick before, but never described so succinctly and clearly.

Another good example is the assertion that support for gay marriage is open-minded. It is not. Muslims, for example, do not support gay marriage. If you hold that gay marriage should be legal, then you must assert that Islam's teachings on homosexuality are wrong. There are no two ways about it. You aren't being open-minded at all. You are affirming a very distinct position and denying all contradictory ones. "Love wins and the rest of you morons lose" ought to be the gay marriage slogan.

Bonus tidbit: David Hume's foundational statement for skepticism is taken out behind the barn and shot quite nicely. Here's what that sounded like as Normal Geisler shot it in front of his college professor.
"The principle of empirical verifiability states that there are only two kinds of meaningful propositions: 1) those that are true by definition and 2) those that are empirically verifiable. Since the principle of empirical verifiability itself is neither true by definition nor empirically verifiable, it cannot be meaningful."
Ouch. That had to hurt.


Ohioan@Heart said...

Actually I would tend towards a mathematical like version of the Axiom of Empirical Verifibility. Some things are true by definition (these are our Axioms). One of those Axioms is the "Principle" of Empirical Verification, to wit: Other true things, i.e., true but non-axiomatic things, can only be identified by Emperical Verification from Axioms and other true statements already proven via Empirical Verification.

Now perhaps I don't see the issue here but it seems the problem from above is completely eliminated (since all Geisler did is say that it could not be an axiom, and I assert it as such).

K T Cat said...

But what you haven't shown is that these are the only things that are true. That's where this falls apart. It's neither one nor the other.

Ohioan@Heart said...

Your argument about relativism shows that some ideas are demonstrably false (they lead to contradiction, classic proof by assuming a contradictory position and show that that must be false - which boils down to an Empirical Verification of the opposite). I have no issue with such. But to say that there are truths that are unprovable, and yet not axiomatic assumptions seems to me to be unsupportable. How do we know it is true? Because it is "obvious"? That's an axiom. Because it's opposite leads to contradiction? Just covered that. Because I (or other authority) says so? Axiom. I really don't see the middle ground that you are claiming.

Ilíon said...

"But to say that there are truths that are unprovable, and yet not axiomatic assumptions seems to me to be unsupportable."

Here is one statement that is true and totally unprovable -- 1 / 0 = "infinity"

"How do we know it is true?"

Gödel's incompleteness theorems

Ilíon said...


"True by definition" is not the same thing as "true"

Ohioan@Heart said...

First, " 'true by definition' is not the same as true": I can accept that. Effectively we decide if such definitions lead to a consistent system (inconsistency voids at least one assumption). In other words we use an empirical verification to determine possible untruth. So in that sense the Axioms are always subject to proof of inconsistency, i.e., disproof.

I have never liked seeing " 1/0 = infinity ". It is completely true that 1/0 is not solvable within the set of Complex numbers. As to actually using infinity in an equation one must be VERY careful about using other information to maintain consistency (truth), so I am always very cautious about writing such.

I don't think Godel's incompleteness theorem supports your case. Yes, it shows that there are things that are provably true (empirically verifiable) just not provable inside the formal system. But we verified it, so it is true. There are cases where we cannot prove things. In some of those cases we can choose more than one truth (see Euclidin vs non-Euclidian geometries). Which one is true? All of them are. We can choose any one, at a time, but in the end the truth in a specific case is determined with empirical verification against observation and/or consistency.

I'm not trying to argumentative here. I completely agree that lots of "axioms" (like KT's argument against Relativism) which are demonstrably untrue. However, I have yet to see a TRUE statement, i.e., one we know must be true, that isn't empirically verified or accepted as axiomatic.