There oughta be a law!

Immediately after reading Randall's post below, I came across another McCain gem, this time from an article about spam.

Almost everyone involved with the spam debate admits CAN-Spam will do little. After voting for the bill, Sen. John McCain said ?the odds of defeating spam by legislation are extremely low, but that doesn?t mean we should stand idly by.?

So let me get this straight: everyone admits that the legislation is useless, but since we have to do something, anything, to give the appearence that the government is not standing "idly by" [if only!], Senators like McCain vote for the bill anyway.

This reminds me of an argument I frequently hear from theists. There may be many good arguments for the existence of God, but one of the worst is that if there is no God, there can be no morality, and society will devolve into a state of anarchy [if only!], by which they mean chaos. Therefore, if we do not wish to live in a state of chaos and amorality, we must believe in God. But even if there is no way to ground morality without first positing the existence of God, this is not a good argument for God's existence . Just because we find something convenient and comforting doesn't make it true.

So too, even when politicians like McCain admit that the future efficacy of legislation is merely an illusion, they support it anyway, because it would be so inconvenient and discomforting to admit that the emperor wears no clothes - to admit that the government is not able to do much of anything to address spam.

What these people fail to realize is that order can come from unplanned, undesigned systems. Humans can construct the legal rules and social norms necessary for a free and prosperous society, without the need to ground these rules and norms on the existence of any supernatural being. Markets can solve the problem of spam, as long as users are willing to accept certain changes.

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This reminds me of an

This reminds me of an argument I frequently hear from A-theists. There may be many good arguments for the existence of ?free will?, but one of the worst is that if there is no ?free will?, there can be no action without consequences, and society will devolve into a state of consistency [if only!], by which they mean order. Therefore, if we do not wish to live in a state of order and morality, we must believe in ?free will?. But even if there is no way to ground morality without first positing the existence of ?free will?, this is not a good argument for ?free will?s? existence . Just because we find something convenient and comforting doesn't make it true.

McCain's was the typical

McCain's was the typical soccer mom "argument," as somebody recently parodied it over at Reason Hit&Run:

"We've got to do SOMETHING.
"X is something.
"Therefore, we've got to do x!"

For the children, of course.

well serpent, as detailed on

well serpent, as detailed on another thread, I think your determinism claims are basically disguised moral claims. Anyway though, I think your response gets to the root of the problem, and nicely explains why you should devote your obviously formidible brain power to discussing politics and economics around here. That is: It doesn't lead to any meaningful conclusion whatsoever- it's like arguing about whether Schroedinger's cat is alive or dead. Or if you think it does, please explain.

AS for McCain, he said "the chances are extremely low" for "defeating spam." Not "the odds are nil for curbing spam even a tiny little bit." Based on that the argument for not standing idly by is much more persuasive.

Matt: [?free will?/Fatalism

Matt: [?free will?/Fatalism ?] That is: It doesn't lead to any meaningful conclusion whatsoever- it's like arguing about whether Schroedinger's cat is alive or dead. Or if you think it does%2K please explain

Matt: [?free will?/Fatalism

Matt: [?free will?/Fatalism ?] That is: It doesn't lead to any meaningful conclusion whatsoever- it's like arguing about whether Schroedinger's cat is alive or dead. Or if you think it does, please explain.

Matt -- The point I was trying to make is that I don?t see ANY difference in asserting the existence of ?free will? without any proof, or in asserting the existence of ?God? without any proof.

Just because Atheists claim ?free will? and deny ?God? doesn?t actually make Atheists any less religious and dogmatic, or any more,/b> scientific and logical when they make unsupported, unfounded, contradictory claims.

Based on that the argument

Based on that the argument for not standing idly by is much more persuasive.

But only if you ignore the costs of creating additional legislation.

As for the free will argument, and whether there is any evidence for the existence of "free will," I think free will falls into the same category as Cogito Ergo Sum. The best evidence we have for own existence and the existence of free will is our own individual experience. While it certainly could be a trick (either our experience or our free will could be illusions), we still have some evidence that these things exist.

The proper analogy would be if we had some evidence for the existence of God but had no way of determinining whether this evidence was real or fake. But I don't believe we have any such evidence, so the analogy doesn't quite work.

Regardless, I do agree that arguments for free will based on convenience or comfort are fallacious, which was the only point I was trying to make in my post.

Micha Ghertner: As for the

Micha Ghertner: As for the free will argument, and whether there is any evidence for the existence of "free will," I think free will falls into the same category as Cogito Ergo Sum [I think therefore I am].

If you can claim that ?free will? is axiomatic (self-evident truth) then I don?t see why a Christian can claim that ?God? is axiomatic. At least the Christian can define the term ?God?.

Micha Ghertner: The best evidence we have for own existence and the existence of free will is our own individual experience. While it certainly could be a trick (either our experience or our free will could be illusions), we still have some evidence that these things exist.

Yes, but when you walk outside I bet your ?Individual experience? also tells you that the world is flat and not a sphere.

Things are not always what they appear to be on the surface. Sometimes you have to examine a little deeper to accurately perceive reality.

Micha Ghertner: The proper analogy would be if we had some evidence for the existence of God but had no way of determinining whether this evidence was real or fake. But I don't believe we have any such evidence, so the analogy doesn't quite work.

I would say that the mountain of evidence for Determinism (B.F. Skinner anyone?) is the empirical evidence for the existence of ?God?. Of course if you pretend that you have magic ?free will? powers it is far easier to deny the existence of that evidence.

Not so long ago I accused you of being in league with the forces of Darkness Mr. Ghertner. I realize now that I may have been hasty in that assessment, and if that is indeed the case I apologize for my error.

If you can claim that ?free

If you can claim that ?free will? is axiomatic (self-evident truth) then I don?t see why a Christian can claim that ?God? is axiomatic.

A Christian can certainly claim that God is self-evident, but that doesn't mean he should be taken seriously. I can cite the evidence of my own consciousness to support my belief that I exist and that I have free will. What evidence can a Christian cite for the existence of God?

At least the Christian can define the term ?God?.

Really? Most of the so-called definitions for God do not describe what God is, but what God isn't. And theists' definition of God differs greatly, which may explain why we have so many different religions running around.

Yes, but when you walk outside I bet your ?Individual experience? also tells you that the world is flat and not a sphere.

Things are not always what they appear to be on the surface. Sometimes you have to examine a little deeper to accurately perceive reality.

Sure, I agree with this. And I never claimed that individual experience tells the whole story; just that it is one piece of evidence. God, on the other hand, doesn't even have this going for him.

I accept your apology, but I may very well be in league with the forces of Darkness, depending on what those forces entail. Actually, it would be a great title to put on my business card.

I didn't want to turn this thread into a debate over God's existence. The sole point I was trying to make, which it seems that even you agree with, is that convenience and comfort are not good arguments for the existence of something.

I'll just let most of this

I'll just let most of this carry over to the matrix thread. I agree with Micha, though. I accept the "clear and distinct" criteria for otherwise indeterminable truths, and that's a solid ground for free will, I think. God is not- if you read Descartes' Meditations (part3 especially) I think it's apparent that while his arguments for god are pretty silly (he actually uses the inane ontological argument) his criteria for truth isn't.

Micha: your *new* argument

Micha:
your *new* argument is not one I'll contend. I was pointing out, correctly I think, that your post doesn't make enough of a case against McCain, and niether does your "additional legislation costs" argument. It may be true that the legislation costs exceed the benefits but that remains to be seen, now doesn't it?

Well, matt, I think the fact

Well, matt, I think the fact that McCain is admitting outright that the chances of the legislation doing anything good is low, coupled with the fact that politicians tend to overestimate the benefits of legislation they support, would lead a reasonable observer to conclude that the purpose of this legislation is not to actually accomplish anything, but to make it appear like the government is "doing something."

I would say that the

I would say that the mountain of evidence for Determinism (B.F. Skinner anyone?) is the empirical evidence for the existence of ?God?.
I had no idea that anyone still believed what this crackpot had to say, meaning Skinner.

Micha Ghertner: A Christian

Micha Ghertner: A Christian can certainly claim that God is self-evident, but that doesn't mean he should be taken seriously.

Just as an Atheist can certainly claim that ?free will? is self-evident, but that doesn?t mean he should be taken seriously.

Micha Ghertner: I can cite the evidence of my own consciousness to support my belief that I exist and that I have free will. What evidence can a Christian cite for the existence of God?

That you in fact do not have ?free will?, that you are in fact controlled by a higher power (TLOP).

If you want to pretend that the Laws of Physics are not controlling you that is certainly your right. If you want to pretend that less conscious entities control more conscious entities, that is also within your rights.

Serpent (previously): At least the Christian can define the term ?God? [whereas Atheists CANNOT define ?free will?].

Micha Ghertner: Really? Most of the so-called definitions for God do not describe what God is, but what God isn't. And theists' definition of God differs greatly, which may explain why we have so many different religions running around.

God = A superior (conscious) entity capable of generating a universe.
Universe = a shared (objective) reality.
Superior = more massive = possessing more mass = greater = more than

Micha Ghertner: Sure, I agree with this. And I never claimed that individual experience tells the whole story; just that it is one piece of evidence. God, on the other hand, doesn't even have this going for him.

How is Tlop (The Laws of Physics) not analogous to a ?God? from your own point of view? According to your own beliefs, Tlop created the universe, She created YOU, and She controls everything you have ever seen, or will ever see so long as you live. The only difference I see is that you claim Tlop is non-conscious, but that is a rather absurd and contradictory statement considering you acknowledge that Tlop created and controls YOU and not the other way around.

Micha Ghertner: I accept your apology, but I may very well be in league with the forces of Darkness, depending on what those forces entail. Actually, it would be a great title to put on my business card.

In all seriousness it is not something you should be joking about.

Micha Ghertner: I didn't want to turn this thread into a debate over God's existence. The sole point I was trying to make, which it seems that even you agree with, is that convenience and comfort are not good arguments for the existence of something.

I agree.

It is far better to perceive reality as it really is than to persist in delusion no matter how satisfying or reassuring

Carl Sagan ? Demon Haunted World

Serpent, if you haven't read

Serpent, if you haven't read Spinoza then you really should. You're basically parroting him. He's a determinist pantheist who believes that TLOP are the laws of god.

That you in fact do not have

That you in fact do not have ?free will?, that you are in fact controlled by a higher power (TLOP).

How is this evidence for the existence of God? This is merely an assertion, not evidence.

God = A superior (conscious) entity capable of generating a universe.

I'm glad that you have your own working definition of God, but as I stated previously, all theists do not share the same definition. Do you believe that God is omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, and so on?

How is Tlop (The Laws of Physics) not analogous to a ?God? from your own point of view? According to your own beliefs, Tlop created the universe,

When did I ever claim that the laws of physics created the universe? The laws of physics didn't "create" anything; they are merely a set of rules describing the way matter and energy work together.

But I notice that you never actually try to answer my question of what evidence there is for God; you merely obfuscate by changing the subject.

Matt, Ugh, pantheism. Don't

Matt,

Ugh, pantheism. Don't even get me started.