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Aleister Crowley and the Argument from Design  

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Los
 Los
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13/10/2013 6:38 pm  

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

This is a somewhat long post I wrote earlier that explores the argument from design before turning to Crowley’s writings to see where he addresses it. Questions for discussion appear at the end.

There is a popular apologetic for Christianity (and sometimes for other religions) that runs something like this: imagine that you are walking alone in the woods when you come across a watch. As soon as you see it, you recognize that it’s out of place in the woods. You pick it up and study it, marveling at its complexity and order, and you understand that its complexity and order necessitate the existence of some creator or designer for it. A watchmaker.

In the same way, this argument concludes, the complexity and order of the universe indicate that it must similarly have a designer, an intelligent one at that, since order and complexity are the products of intelligence. Just as the watch must necessarily have had a watchmaker, as we can tell from its complexity and order, so too must the universe have had a universemaker.

The flaw in this argument is almost too obvious. In order to recognize design, we need to contrast it against something that’s not designed (something that’s naturally occurring). And that’s exactly what happens in the analogy: when we recognize the watch as different from the natural world that surrounds it, we’re distinguishing design by contrasting it with the naturally occurring universe.

That being the case, we can’t validly turn around and then conclude that the naturally occurring universe must also be designed. That conclusion would collapse the categories of “designed” and “naturally occurring,” invalidating the argument’s first premise.

In essence, the watchmaker argument asks us to believe that the watch is lying in a forest filled with watches, surrounded by air made up entirely of watches, near a sea of watches. And we’re supposed to pick up one watch and recognize that it’s different somehow than all those other watches.

The argument defeats itself.

In point of fact, we don’t recognize design by complexity or order. Plenty of complicated and orderly things are naturally occurring and have no designer: take the snowflake, for example, which is complex and organized but simply arises from blind, undirected natural laws.

No, we recognize that the watch is designed because we have a lot of evidence that watches are designed by intelligent beings and no evidence at all that watches are naturally occurring (there’s no mechanism for watches to reproduce, we’ve never found watches growing out of the ground, etc.)

Of course, no matter how flawed the argument is, the appearance of design is a stumbling block for many people. Yet, as scientists such as Darwin and his modern day defenders like Dawkins have shown, evolution is the only satisfying answer for the appearance of design and for the existence of complexity.

After all, proposing the existence of a universe-creating intelligent designer doesn’t solve the problem of explaining where complexity came from: the designer itself would have to be complex, and – since the argument from design takes it as a given that complexity requires a creator – there would have to be a creator of the creator and so forth forever.

Only evolution – which demonstrates how very simple things could produce complexity over long periods of time – actually solves the question of the existence of complexity and adequately explains the appearance of design.

And, of course, it should go without saying that evolution has been conclusively demonstrated. Francis Collins, former head of the human genome project and an evangelical Christian, is on record as saying that nothing in biology makes sense unless evolution is true and that even if we didn’t have a single fossil, the evidence from DNA alone demonstrates that evolution is true.

What’s important to recognize is that even though the argument from design is flawed, it’s intensely seductive, especially if you don’t think about it too hard. On the surface, it seems kind of intuitive: of course complex things come from intelligence, and hey the universe is complex, so yeah, must be some intelligent magic man that done did it all! Even Dawkins concedes that while atheists existed before Darwin, the dawn of evolutionary theory made it possible to be an intellectually satisfied atheist, to resist the error of the argument from design by finally having a plausible alternative – one now confirmed through evidence.

And, after all, it should be clear why the argument from design is so seductive: evolution has built us with brains that naturally detect patterns. This pattern-recognition feature is what helped our ancestors survive, but it’s also the very same aspect of our minds that gets us into trouble nowadays, that leads us to “see things that aren’t there,” both in the universe and in ourselves (replacing our understanding of our actual nature and inclinations with a “fancy picture” of “who we are”). On the specific issue of the argument from design, our pattern-recognizing brains are primed to see a pattern and an intention where there is none. The argument from design is an example of one of the errors that reason inflicts upon us. Such rational errors are a big part of what Thelema sets out to solve.

Crowley’s writings suggest that he was aware that the universe operated blindly and randomly (in the sense of being undirected, not in the sense of being unpredictable on the level of matter).

Chapter 22 of the Book of Lies springs immediately to mind:

THE DESPOT
The waiters of the best eating-houses mock the whole world; they estimate every client at his proper value.

This I know certainly, because they always treat me with profound respect. Thus they have flattered me into praising them thus publicly.

Yet it is true; and they have this insight because they serve, and because they can have no personal interest in the affairs of those whom they serve.

An absolute monarch would be absolutely wise and good.

But no man is strong enough to have no interest. Therefore the best king would be Pure Chance.

It is Pure Chance that rules the Universe; therefore, and only therefore, life is good.

Crowley underlines this point in several other places. In Book 4 Part II, when he is discussing karma – and mocking the usual interpretation of it – he concludes, “Karma is the Law of Cause and Effect. There is no proportion in its operations. Once an accident occurs it is impossible to say what may happen; and the Universe is a stupendous accident.”

Earlier in the same work, he writes, “But even though every man is 'determined' so that every action is merely the passive resultant of the sum-total of the forces which have acted upon him from eternity, so that his own Will is only the echo of the Will of the Universe, yet that consciousness of 'free-will' is valuable,” conceding that every action is technically determined by the ones before it in a blind, mechanistic way. Though he speaks of the “Will of the Universe” here, and in a few other places, he clearly does not mean “Will” in the sense of conscious agency: he’s talking about the effects of “forces” in a mechanistic way that coincides with a purely materialist view of the world.

Perhaps my favorite instance of Crowley underlining this point takes place in “Magick Without Tears.” In Letter XL (“Coincidence”), Crowley writes the following:

Chance blindly rules the Universe.  But what is Chance?  And where does purpose intervene?  To what extent?

[he gives an example:]

You walk quietly into the Casino; it seems to you that the excitement is even more noticeable than usual.  You see a friend at the table "Here in the nick of time!" he gasps.  "Black has just turned up for the 24th time running."  You press forward to plank the maximum on Red.  The wheel spins; Black again! "Forty thousand she-devils in the belfry of St. Nicholas Rocambole-de-Ronchonot!"

"But --- but" (you stammer when spirits of hartshorn have revived you)  "in the whole history of the tables a colour has never turned up more than 24 times running!"

My poor friend, what has that got to do with it?  True, from the start it is countless millions to 1 that there will not be a run of 24 on the red or the black; but the probability on any single spin (ignoring zero) is always one to one.  The black compartments do not contract because the ball has fallen into any one of them.

Anyone who gambles at all is either a dilettante, a crook, or a B.F.  If you could get the B.F.'s to understand the very elementary mathematics set forth above, good-night to gambling!  And a good riddance, at that!  Well, there is one advantage in the system; it does help the intelligent man to steal a march on his neighbours!

It’s very common for religious believers to couple the argument from design with an argument from improbability: “What are the odds,” they exclaim, “of the universe turning out exactly like this?!” After all, science tells us that if the events in the seconds after the Big Bang had turned out even slightly different, then the universe as we know it would not exist. In fact, the universe may have just sputtered out. Or, if the earth were even a few inches farther away from or closer to the sun, life could never have existed on this planet. What are the odds? Even more to the point, what if your father had never gotten that phone call that delayed him just a few moments so that circumstances worked out just right that he met your mother and they eventually had you? What are the odds??! Clearly, there must be some intelligence directing all of this!

Well, no. As Crowley points out, every arrangement is equally unlikely:

In all this the important point for my present purpose is to show you how entirely this question of probability and coincidence is dependent on your attention.

The sequence B B B B B B B at roulette is most unlikely to occur; but so, in exactly the same degree, is the sequence B R B R R B R or any other sequence.  The one passes unnoticed, the other causes surprise, only because you have in your mind the idea of "a run on black."

Extend this line of thought a little, and link it up with what I was saying about the Magical Diary; you realize that every phenomenon soever is equally improbably, and "infinitely" so.  The Universe is therefore nothing but Coincidence!

Of course the universe turning out like this is incredibly unlikely, but any other way the universe could have turned out is equally unlikely. We just value the way it turned out -- for obvious reasons -- so our minds tend to treat the way it turned out as a "goal." And if we look at it like that, it seems incredible...wow, what were the odds that the universe would hit the goal? But, in fact, there was no goal. That the universe turned out this way does not indicate that some designer intended it this way.

And it just so happens that this point links up perfectly with Thelemic practice: as AL I:22 tells us: “Let there be no difference made among you between any one thing & any other thing.” And one way to make a difference is to see one event as ultimately more important or significant than any other. In point of fact, each event is an equally improbably “play of Nuit.”

On the basis of these ideas being expressed consistently throughout Crowley’s body of work and lining up in a way that strongly support Thelema, I claim that this is a very strong reading of Crowley’s work.

So alright, then, but there’s one wrinkle in all of this. In a few places, Crowley writes in terms that suggest he bought the flawed argument from intelligent design. In “Magick Without Tears” Letter LXXXII, he writes,

First of all let us consider this question of the meaning of the universe. It is its own evidence to design, and that design intelligent design. There is no question of any moral significance—"one man's meat is another man's poison" and so on.  But there can be no possible doubt about the existence of some kind of intelligence, and that kind is far superior to anything of which we know as human.

Crowley here commits the error spoken of at the beginning of this post. He takes the universe itself (with its complexity and order) as evidence of design (“and that design intelligent design”). This is quite an odd mistake, coming from someone who throughout his life’s work – and even in the same work as this quote appears – presented the universe as operating through chance.

In Letter XLV, we get this curious ending:

finding that the maddest gambles keep oncoming off, you begin to suspect that there is no more than Luck in it; you observe this closely, and there forms, in the dusk dimly, a Shape; very soon you see a Hand, and from its movements you divine a Brain behind the whole contrivance.

"Good!" you say quietly, with a determined nod; "I'm watched, I'm helped: I'll do my bit; the rest will come about without my worrying or meddling."

This isn’t quite “intelligent design” in the same sense as in the above quote (i.e. inferred from the orderly structure of the universe), but it is similar to the kind of error that religious believers make when appealing to improbability (“What are the odds! There’s got to be more than Luck to it!”). Again, this is an odd mistake for someone to make when he, elsewhere in the very same work as well as throughout his career, indicates what’s wrong with this mistake (for crying out loud, he even uses the word “gamble,” which resonates with the other passage in which he explained this error).

Although this is a discrepancy in Crowley’s published writings, I claim it’s not a very significant one because these appeals to intelligent design and improbability are isolated instances, outweighed by many other passages where Crowley clearly leans toward a view of the universe favored by evidence. However, living before we cracked the genetic code (and confirmed beyond any doubt that the “design” of living creatures is the product of undirected natural selection), Crowley perhaps did not have the luxury of being able to put the appearance of design behind him. Perhaps he was still seduced by it, as even people are today.

There’s this disappointing tendency in Crowley studies to pretend that the man wrote entirely in contradictions and that therefore there’s no way to extract any consistent meaning from his words and therefore all attempts to read Crowley are “cherry picking,” so Crowley is more of a Rorschach test than anything else. Everyone sees what they want to see in his writings, these people claim. So therefore, no one’s necessarily wrong, and hey, “truth is what works,” so like, whatever, dude. Just do the work and like…yeah, totally, dude.

Hopefully, no one reading this post is actually stupid enough to subscribe to that view of Crowley’s works, which makes an absolute joke of any attempt to study his system (a view to which Crowley himself certainly did not subscribe). I equally hope I’ve demonstrated in this post not that Crowley’s writing is brimming with contradiction on this point (it’s not) but that there is a consistent way to read his output on this point, despite the existence of a few isolated and curious examples that suggest one of Crowley’s intellectual flaws: that he was unable to let go of the argument from design.

There are, of course, a few other possible conclusions: it’s possible that Crowley invokes the argument from design specifically in the context of writing for a beginner in order to “dumb down” his point into something immediately graspable by someone learning it for the first time. I don’t mean that in a pejorative way: the manner in which teachers introduce a concept to high school students may differ wildly from the manner in which those same teachers might explore the same subject with graduate students.

It’s also possible that Crowley was specifically trying to get this beginner to adopt a particular point of view (that he thought might be) conducive toward the work: getting her to think that she was being “helped” by super beings might give her confidence and this confidence might be useful. If that really is what Crowley was trying to do, I disagree very much with the idea that deliberately hoodwinking someone else (or oneself) is useful at all. While there might be a few minor benefits, the drawbacks far outweigh them.

Finally, we might also say that Crowley’s personal belief in superbeings (“Secret Chiefs” or preternatural goblins) – if we take him at his word and grant that he really did believe in them – may actually be bound up in his intellectual error in seriously entertaining the argument from design. His seduction by the argument from design may have contributed to poisoning his thought process and convincing him that there really were superbeing goblins out there. If so, those isolated passages in which Crowley commits the error of accepting the argument from design or improbability may be interesting places to study where his thinking goes wrong. They may illustrate for us the dangers that wait for us in our own thinking and the necessity to see through all the traps that the rational mind lays out before us.

As Liber AL warns, “There is great danger in me; for who doth not understand these runes shall make a great miss. He shall fall down into the pit called Because, and there he shall perish with the dogs of Reason.” (II: 27)

I’d like to open this thread up to discussions of Crowley’s use of the argument from design or his refutations of it. Where are some other places in his published, public writings in which he explores this question? While less important for questions of Thelema, his private writings might give us some insight into his tentative thinking, so where in his private writings do these issues appear as well?

Finally, I would be delighted to have people challenge my conclusions here and build a reasoned argument against mine.

Love is the law, love under will.


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Shiva
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13/10/2013 8:08 pm  
"Los" wrote:
Finally, we might also say that Crowley’s personal belief in superbeings (“Secret Chiefs” or preternatural goblins) – if we take him at his word and grant that he really did believe in them – may actually be bound up in his intellectual error in seriously entertaining the argument from design. His seduction by the argument from design may have contributed to poisoning his thought process and convincing him that there really were superbeing goblins out there.

He apparently did believe in these super-human beings, as he often states and restates his conclusions as to their external reality. I have had several experiences wherein I seemed to contact such beings who appeared to be exeternal to myself, where terrestrial or supra-planetary.

But I have come to realize that these beings are simply projections from my wishful-think-tank, or subconscious-dudes, or oersonifications of some universal archetype. Just because an archetype is "universal," doesn't mean it's for real in the real world of reality. It's just a fairy-tale that everyone has access to ... poor, deluded them!

[/align:rmdk34t3]

All these visions (of anyone: me, AC, Los, Snarf, etc) are mental-astral storybooks.


Come and join the game - Pretend that it's really real  ::)[/align:rmdk34t3]


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OKontrair
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13/10/2013 8:28 pm  

Los you seem to have answered most of your own questions but you are contrasting Crowley's early position - fresh from feasting on T.H.Huxley and attacking the then status quo - with his later one where he is propagating his own system. This could be interpreted in (at least) two ways.  He may have reached a more mature view based on greater experience or he may be sliding back to the notions force fed to him in childhood.

And then of course he could be insincere - why waste a good argument convincing someone if a bad one will do the job better?

But the designer position is only absurd when combined with monotheism because the single creator/designer has to do absolutely everything. Paganism can accomodate it quite well because the different actors interfere in their own areas, are subject to their individual limitations etc. AC was not taking the monotheist position when he posits 'beings superior to us'.

I don't see a theoretical difficulty with assuming such beings, formed by blind chance as we are, but generally imperceptible to us in the same way that we are to - for instance - yeast.  Man interferes in the lives of yeasts all the time - saving some, slaying others and genetically modifying more. Have they any ideas about us? Do they pray for mercy or thank us maybe for all that sugar, possibly not but it is unprovable that they don't.

OK


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Los
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13/10/2013 8:45 pm  
"OKontrair" wrote:
you are contrasting Crowley's early position - fresh from feasting on T.H.Huxley and attacking the then status quo - with his later one where he is propagating his own system.

Except that the quotes I provide in apparent support of the argument from design and the argument from improbability come from the same exact work in which he continued to claim that the universe was ruled by Chance (and offered a refutation of the argument from improbability).

It's for that reason that I incline away from the "here's his mature view" interpretation. It's similar with the HGA question. There are a couple of quotes you can pull out of MWT that sort of sound like he's calling the HGA a separate being, but those few quotes are not only at odds with things he wrote for his entire career, he contradicts them elsewhere in MWT by presenting the HGA, as he did throughout his career, as a metaphor for the True Self of the individual.

For these reasons, I say that "here's his mature view" isn't the best reading.

This could be interpreted in (at least) two ways.  He may have reached a more mature view based on greater experience or he may be sliding back to the notions force fed to him in childhood.

An then of course he could be insincere - why waste a good argument convincing someone if a bad one will do the job better?

Right. I think the latter two possibilities are more probable, for the reason stated above. Then, of course, it's possible to argue that Crowley was starting to "lose it" a little bit in his old age (an extension of your second option above) or that Crowley was deliberately trying to make himself seem more impressive and mysterious to his student (an extension of your third option).

But the designer position is only absurd when combined with monotheism because the single creator/designer has to do absolutely everything. Paganism can accomodate it quite well because the different actors interfere in their own areas, are subject to their individual limitations etc. AC was not taking the monotheist position when he posits 'beings superior to us'.

I don't agree here. The flaw with the designer argument -- as I expressed above -- is that in order discern design, you would have to first contrast that which is designed with something that isn't designed (something that is naturally occurring). Once you do that, you can't then turn around and say that naturally occurring stuff is actually designed too...it violates the very argument you're using.

That problem is still present regardless of how many "designers" you want to postulate.

Now, I guess it's possible to argue that humans, specifically, were designed by other natural beings (say, aliens who "seeded" planet earth with life) -- and, presumably, those natural beings arose through some natural process elsewhere in the universe. This argument would indeed avoid the problems with the argument I was spelling out in the OP, but it suffers from a different problem: the fact that there's no evidence to support it.


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OKontrair
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13/10/2013 9:22 pm  

But the designer position is only absurd when combined with monotheism because the single creator/designer has to do absolutely everything. Paganism can accomodate it quite well because the different actors interfere in their own areas, are subject to their individual limitations etc. AC was not taking the monotheist position when he posits 'beings superior to us'.

I don't agree here. The flaw with the designer argument -- as I expressed above -- is that in order discern design, you would have to first contrast that which is designed with something that isn't designed (something that is naturally occurring). Once you do that, you can't then turn around and say that naturally occurring stuff is actually designed too...it violates the very argument you're using.

That problem is still present regardless of how many "designers" you want to postulate.

I must have expressed myself poorly because we seem to be at cross purposes.  Surely we are not discussing the 'designer argument' itself in all its full blown loopiness? This was never Crowley's position. Crowley's position sems to me to be more that his life was in some way 'interfered with'. Guided. nudged perhaps, by an invisible guardian or patron. Not too very different from Pip in Dicken's Great Expectations only more so and not by a human.  The barrier is lower than you suggest because to discern a life 'interfered with' you have only to contrast a life, or periods within a life, when the 'interference' is absent.

OK


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Los
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13/10/2013 9:58 pm  
"OKontrair" wrote:
Surely we are not discussing the 'designer argument' itself in all its full blown loopiness? This was never Crowley's position.

I don't know about that. He says that the universe "is its own evidence to design, and that design intelligent design." He doesn't elaborate in that letter. So based just on that extract -- which explicitly states that the entire universe is evidence that the universe was intelligently designed -- I feel comfortable directing readers to the critical flaw in the designer argument (as seen in the watchmaker analogy).

Crowley's position sems to me to be more that his life was in some way 'interfered with'. Guided. nudged perhaps, by an invisible guardian or patron.

This is the other argument. Above, I was talking about his claim that the universe is evidence of its own intelligent design, which is a flawed argument however you cut it. Here, you're talking about Crowley's claim that his own life was "guided" by some extra-human intelligence.

In the OP, I point to a place in MWT where he tells his correspondent that this "guidance" can be discerned by the sheer improbability of the events of one's life (i.e. concluding that it must be "more than Luck") -- with the implication that this is how he himself determined that he was guided and also how others can tell that they are similarly being guided.

This argument is flawed also, for the reasons I present in the OP -- ironically, reasons that Crowley himself expresses elsewhere in MWT: that all outcomes are equally improbable, making incredulous reactions based on "improbability" deeply flawed.


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OKontrair
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13/10/2013 10:57 pm  

I have no disagreement about the 'designer argument' itself. As you point out AC used this argument on at least one occasion to one person (and, if and when published, to others deemed similar). I take this to be a tailored preamble to his main point on that occasion. This is cherry picking on my part I know but I pick this particular cherry to discard. It looks like an outlier on the graph.

Crowley's observations on probability re roulette are completely sound but when the argument is extended to real and complicated life, and the possibilities are not limited to black or red, I think the word 'improbability' takes on a different cast. Incredulous reactions to (let me substitute for 'improbability')  'events contrary to completely rational expectations' should lead to revised expectations and new theories then to more reliable expectations. And from there away from incredulity.

It's not my position that AC's conclusions are correct but I wasn't there when he formed them and they seem to me not irrational.

OK


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Los
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14/10/2013 4:34 am  
"OKontrair" wrote:
I have no disagreement about the 'designer argument' itself. As you point out AC used this argument on at least one occasion to one person (and, if and when published, to others deemed similar). I take this to be a tailored preamble to his main point on that occasion. This is cherry picking on my part I know but I pick this particular cherry to discard. It looks like an outlier on the graph.

Yeah, I mainly agree with this -- but just a quick tangential note: I don't consider it "cherry picking" to look at Crowley's body of work, see where there are isolated pieces that don't fit with the rest, and correctly identify them as outliers and special cases that don't really reflect the whole of the body of work he was presenting to the world.

It would be cherry picking, though, to pull out one single quote (like, say, oh I don't know, the "My observation of the universe" bit) and try to pass it off as being the sum total of Crowley's thought, as some people are wont to do.

"OK" wrote:
Crowley's observations on probability re roulette are completely sound but when the argument is extended to real and complicated life, and the possibilities are not limited to black or red, I think the word 'improbability' takes on a different cast. Incredulous reactions to (let me substitute for 'improbability')  'events contrary to completely rational expectations' should lead to revised expectations and new theories then to more reliable expectations. And from there away from incredulity.

Well, it depends on what we're talking about, doesn't it? Sure, if my couch levitates three feet off the ground in the middle of a get-together I'm having with friends and a bellowing voice emerges from it crying, "I Sing the Sofa!!!" and then the voice follows this by declaiming the first twenty lines of Cowper's The Task, then yeah, I'd be pretty damn incredulous.

But if a bunch of mundane things happen to me -- really good and lucky things, but mundane nonetheless -- no, I wouldn't be slightly incredulous at that. I certainly wouldn't take it as some kind of sign that I'm being watched and guided by anything.

Let's go back to the letter I quoted for some context. Crowley was, in that passage, discussing his own rule of life as a young man to "do whatever came first on the list of agenda, and never to count the cost."

"Crowley" wrote:
confidence comes from exercise, from taking risks, from picking your- self up after a purler; finding that the maddest gambles keep oncoming off, you begin to suspect that there is no more than Luck in it; you observe this closely, and there forms, in the dusk dimly, a Shape; very soon you see a Hand, and from its movements you divine a Brain behind the whole contrivance.

The clear implication of this is that if you're lucky often enough, then you have grounds for suspecting that this luck is actually a guiding hand belonging to a "divine Brain."

This is surprisingly poor thinking. In the first place, "lucky" is very ill-defined and could cover a vast number of outcomes in a given situation. Let's say that you desperately need an extra $500 this month to cover your rent. I could, off the top of my head, think of dozens of commonplace things that could happen to you that would solve your problem and that you could interpret as "lucky." The odds of something happening to you that you could consider "lucky" might be pretty damn good, actually.

In the second place, sheer numbers make this idea even sillier. Just imagine how many people there are who desperately need to come up with rent money this month. Of that vast number, a significant percentage would probably be able to find grounds for thinking that they got "lucky" (for a lot of them, I'll bet that any outcome short of getting evicted could be spun as "lucky"...and even then: "I'm sure lucky I still have my health!" or "Getting evicted opened up new possibilities and led me to meet so-and-so...how lucky! I'm being watched and guided!"). Of that percentage that can consider themselves lucky there, a sizable percentage will have some other problem whose outcome they can spin as lucky, too. And of that percentage....and so on and so on. So what are the odds that a fairly sizable number of people have (what they think are) grounds for thinking that they are "very lucky"? Probably pretty good.

In the third place, the human brain's tendency to seek patterns -- to place heavy weight on stuff that strikes it as important and to forget about or explain away the misses -- can make it seem even more like one is being "guided." After all, if one gets really lucky at two or three things in the same short span of time (which, as I suggest above, probably isn't terribly uncommon when people can easily spin normal stuff as "lucky"), one concentrates on those supposed improbabilities and forgets about other things that someone could possibly spin as "unlucky" (and then you can always spin that as "ordeals" that are "testing" you, building your "character," and proving what a cool wizard you must be since you're advancing so far along the path....)

What all of this means is that it's super easy to talk yourself into thinking that you're "lucky" and experiencing results that you couldn't have "rationally expected" or whatever. Especially if you live in a first world country where life is pretty damn good for a lot of people and you have the luxury of sitting around reflecting on how supposedly "lucky" you are and how that must mean that Superchums are guiding your life.

In short, this sort of sloppy thinking in Crowley's letter is an illustration of some of the dangers of the rational mind, which both seeks out these patterns and falsely induces from them the conclusion that there is intent behind random stuff. Again, back in the state of nature, this kind of pattern-recognition and intent-attribution was useful for our ancestors' survival, but nowadays, it's liable to screw up our ability to see things clearly.

"OK" wrote:
It's not my position that AC's conclusions are correct but I wasn't there when he formed them and they seem to me not irrational.

Oh, I don't think he's being irrational at all. If anything, he's not being critical enough of his rational faculties, since he is using reason (poorly) to draw incorrect conclusions. It's an illustration of the kind of error that Liber AL warns us against when it condemns reason.


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HG
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14/10/2013 8:14 am  
"Los" wrote:
So alright, then, but there’s one wrinkle in all of this. In a few places, Crowley writes in terms that suggest he bought the flawed argument from intelligent design. In “Magick Without Tears” Letter LXXXII, he writes,

First of all let us consider this question of the meaning of the universe. It is its own evidence to design, and that design intelligent design. There is no question of any moral significance—"one man's meat is another man's poison" and so on.  But there can be no possible doubt about the existence of some kind of intelligence, and that kind is far superior to anything of which we know as human.

Crowley here commits the error spoken of at the beginning of this post. He takes the universe itself (with its complexity and order) as evidence of design (“and that design intelligent design”). This is quite an odd mistake, coming from someone who throughout his life’s work – and even in the same work as this quote appears – presented the universe as operating through chance.

You know, I actually argued with you about this position in the good old "ring charging" thread: http://www.lashtal.com/forum/http://www.lashtal.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=72364#p72364

"HG" wrote:
OK, so you are an intelligent human being.  You can do extraordinary things with your massive brain.

But can you make your brain?  Can you grow it, in all it's magnificent complexity, from a single cell?  Can you take that single cell and construct a functioning human body with trillions of cells from it?

Yet you do have that intelligence inside of you.  All of us do.  But it is most definitely not the intelligence we know and use all the time.

Perhaps Crowley was talking about this very intelligenge.  It's alien, it's apart from our physical brain, and we can make contact with it when we're discovering our will.  ("I like cabbage but I loathe mushrooms.  I have no idea why it is so.")

(It's neither discarnate nor extraterrestial, by the way.)

That's what I think Crowley was talking about when he said:  "But there can be no possible doubt about the existence of some kind of intelligence, and that kind is far superior to anything of which we know as human."
A plant seed possesses enormous amounts of extraordinary intelligence that's far beyond our human capabilities.


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the_real_simon_iff
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14/10/2013 1:47 pm  

Los, 93!

You are taking this design argument way too far. There is no doubt about Crowley actually believing in praeter/super/extra-human intelligences who "led" him and dictated to him Liber AL, he says so throughout his life. But nowhere he says that these intelligences are the designers of the universe or whatever. "They" just possess very different and superior intelligence, one might say "they" understand the implications of pure chance or the laws of evolution far better, but even "they" might be the product of a universe ruled by blind chance.

Where is your problem with a universe ruled by blind chance containing extra-human intelligence? Oh, I see, extra-human MUST mean goblins, unicorns, squid-monsters or a bearded creator. Of course, if you look at it like that, you will always find contradicting statements in Crowley's work.

Nice try, though.

And yes, I agree, no higher intelligence is accountable for your (or your "supporters'") liking (or disliking) of spinach, coffee and mushrooms. Since there is no rational explanation it MUST be your True Will. Keep following it!

Love=Law
Lutz


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jamie barter
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14/10/2013 5:00 pm  
"Los" wrote:
... Clearly, there must be some intelligence directing all of this!

Well, no. As Crowley points out, every arrangement is equally unlikely:

In all this the important point for my present purpose is to show you how entirely this question of probability and coincidence is dependent on your attention.

The sequence B B B B B B B at roulette is most unlikely to occur; but so, in exactly the same degree, is the sequence B R B R R B R or any other sequence.  The one passes unnoticed, the other causes surprise, only because you have in your mind the idea of "a run on black."

Extend this line of thought a little, and link it up with what I was saying about the Magical Diary; you realize that every phenomenon soever is equally improbably, and "infinitely" so.  The Universe is therefore nothing but Coincidence!

Of course the universe turning out like this is incredibly unlikely, but any other way the universe could have turned out is equally unlikely. We just value the way it turned out -- for obvious reasons -- so our minds tend to treat the way it turned out as a "goal." And if we look at it like that, it seems incredible...wow, what were the odds that the universe would hit the goal? But, in fact, there was no goal. That the universe turned out this way does not indicate that some designer intended it this way.

Hence, in one way of looking at the problem, “every number is infinite” and there is no difference.  Or even différance, as Derrida might put it.

The bottom line in the ‘reasoning’ behind your thread appears to be that Intelligence must either be an accident or (less probably) it must  be design.  You appear to rule out the possibility that it can ever serendipitously be both (e.g., a purposeful impression of an accident given by design, or of the purposeful appearance of a design that has been caused accidentally or by chance), and so therefore it seems that it has to be one or the other, and you are plumping for the former.  Please correct me if I am getting this wrong.

The trouble with your way of thinking (and its limitation and imprisonment by the bounds of your own patterning, if you will allow me) is that it very much seems to be an “either/or” outlook rather than a “both/and”.

"Los" wrote:
... And it just so happens that this point links up perfectly with Thelemic practice: as AL I:22 tells us: “Let there be no difference made among you between any one thing & any other thing.” And one way to make a difference is to see one event as ultimately more important or significant than any other. In point of fact, each event is an equally improbably “play of Nuit.”

I’m not necessarily disagreeing with you here, but if so, then why do you think A.C. was commanded to “abstruct” the Stele from the ill-ordered house?  Or carry out half a dozen other injunctions in The Book of the Law, if it really makes “no difference” in the material world?  Why “do” anything at all in that case?  Your hypothesis as it stands would also, for instance, make a nonsense out of the point of the chapter in The Equinox of the Gods wherein A.C. calculates the 'odds' against Rose lighting upon Horus as Exhibit 666, etc as being so many (was it 21? Don’t have it to hand) million to one against, etc.

"Los" wrote:
Crowley here commits the error spoken of at the beginning of this post. He takes the universe itself (with its complexity and order) as evidence of design (“and that design intelligent design”). This is quite an odd mistake, coming from someone who throughout his life’s work – and even in the same work as this quote appears – presented the universe as operating through chance.

Your mind is creating an opposition between chance and design.  Although rationally they may appear exclusive, this is just a trick of conventional operating procedure.  As I speculated earlier, it might perhaps be part of the purpose of design to give the appearance of Pure Chance (just as much as it might be possible that intelligent design is insinuated by the action of Pure Chance – the so-called Anthropic Cosmological or Goldilocks Principle, for example.)

”Pure” chance – as an absolute – can not ultimately mean “no pattern” whether you like it or not.  There is always a factor “infinite and unknown”.  And that factor may (or may not) be design.

"Los" wrote:
This isn’t quite “intelligent design” in the same sense as in the above quote (i.e. inferred from the orderly structure of the universe), but it is similar to the kind of error that religious believers make when appealing to improbability (“What are the odds! There’s got to be more than Luck to it!”). Again, this is an odd mistake for someone to make when he, elsewhere in the very same work as well as throughout his career, indicates what’s wrong with this mistake (for crying out loud, he even uses the word “gamble,” which resonates with the other passage in which he explained this error).

This could possibly be intuition, in some aspect.  Where on earth does that (the intuitive mind, sometimes called neschamah) fit into your schema?

"Los" wrote:
... However, living before we cracked the genetic code (and confirmed beyond any doubt that the “design” of living creatures is the product of undirected natural selection), Crowley perhaps did not have the luxury of being able to put the appearance of design behind him. Perhaps he was still seduced by it, as even people are today.

This – “confirmed beyond any doubt” – is not the case at all.  It may, or may not, be so.  I am simply objecting to the absolutism, here, of your language.

"Los" wrote:
I’d like to open this thread up to discussions of Crowley’s use of the argument from design or his refutations of it. Where are some other places in his published, public writings in which he explores this question? While less important for questions of Thelema, his private writings might give us some insight into his tentative thinking, so where in his private writings do these issues appear as well?

I suggest you might read Will & The Wisp, my analysis of the points in common between Chaos Magic Theory (incorporating the concepts of chaos and randomness) and Thelema, if you have not already done so, where I go into this in some detail and provide quite a number of instances of where A.C. supports, and then again refutes, a deterministic/ design outlook as opposed to one of chance/ randomness (and vice versa, of course.)

"Los" wrote:
This is a somewhat long post I wrote earlier that explores the argument from design before turning to Crowley’s writings to see where he addresses it. Questions for discussion appear at the end. ... I’d like to open this thread up to discussions of Crowley’s use of the argument from design or his refutations of it.

What, like your “Thelemic Practice” thread, you mean?  On your terms, and where you will only deign to answer if you can and the question is agreeable to you? 

"Los" wrote:
... Finally, I would be delighted to have people challenge my conclusions here and build a reasoned argument against mine.

Ditto; I am tempted to write “cobblers” in answer here.  Incidentally, not apropos to nothing, would you mind answering (some of the more germane out of) my previous points to you?  Terribly rude form, you know, to ignore your correspondent when you have specifically requested feedback…! (To save you the effort with one of them, though: I will assume for the moment (unless more evidence is forthcoming to the contrary) that you are not taking the piss on a grand scale…)

I thought I was given to being wordy, but I think you take the overall chalice.  However, I can also, when I am choosing not to be verbose, encapsulate what I am saying into a few words where necessary.  Hopefully you can too?

“I’m Still waiting…”,
Norma N. Joy Conquest


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Los
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14/10/2013 9:09 pm  
"HG" wrote:
You know, I actually argued with you about this position in the good old "ring charging" thread

Oh yeah, that classic thread. I never answered you in that thread because I had my hands full of supernaturalists at the time.

OK, so you are an intelligent human being.  You can do extraordinary things with your massive brain.

But can you make your brain?  Can you grow it, in all it's magnificent complexity, from a single cell?  Can you take that single cell and construct a functioning human body with trillions of cells from it?

Yet you do have that intelligence inside of you.  All of us do.  But it is most definitely not the intelligence we know and use all the time.

Perhaps Crowley was talking about this very intelligenge.  It's alien, it's apart from our physical brain, and we can make contact with it when we're discovering our will.  ("I like cabbage but I loathe mushrooms.  I have no idea why it is so.")

(It's neither discarnate nor extraterrestial, by the way.)

Yeah, I do agree that Crowley sometimes did speak about the True Self as something Other (from the perspective of the mind) because from the perspective of the mind, it *is* other. But it's not some external being, as you point out...it's just the actual self, as opposed to one's false ideas about the self.

However, in this specific quote I'm discussing here, Crowley explicitly says, on the question of the meaning of the universe, that the universe "is its own evidence to design, and that design intelligent design."

I'm not sure how you can read that other than as saying that the universe looks like it's designed and, from that, we can infer that it was intelligently designed. I'd definitely be open to hearing a different way to read that part.


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Los
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14/10/2013 9:24 pm  
"the_real_simon_iff" wrote:
You are taking this design argument way too far. There is no doubt about Crowley actually believing in praeter/super/extra-human intelligences who "led" him and dictated to him Liber AL, he says so throughout his life. But nowhere he says that these intelligences are the designers of the universe or whatever. "They" just possess very different and superior intelligence, one might say "they" understand the implications of pure chance or the laws of evolution far better, but even "they" might be the product of a universe ruled by blind chance.

Yeah, I hear what you're saying, and I agree that this is mostly what Crowley claims throughout his life, but in my OP, I call attention to one extract in which Crowley certainly *appears* to be appealing to the argument from design (he explicitly says that the universe "is its own evidence to design," as part of demonstrating that it has "meaning") and another extract in which he appears to be appealing to an argument from improbability.

Where is your problem with a universe ruled by blind chance containing extra-human intelligence?

If you're asking me whether I think there is some contradiction between the claim that pure chance rules the universe and the possibility that extra-human intelligence exists, then no, I don't think there's a contradiction there. The reason I think that no one should accept the existence of extra-human intelligence is not that it's contradictory but that it's insufficiently supported by evidence.

Oh, I see, extra-human MUST mean goblins, unicorns, squid-monsters or a bearded creator. Of course, if you look at it like that, you will always find contradicting statements in Crowley's work.

I didn't say that extra-human necessarily means a specific creature. If by "extra-human intelligence" you simply mean "mind without a brain," I think that nobody has anything close to a good reason for thinking that such a thing exists.

And yes, I agree, no higher intelligence is accountable for your (or your "supporters'") liking (or disliking) of spinach, coffee and mushrooms. Since there is no rational explanation it MUST be your True Will. Keep following it!

I'm not sure what you're driving at. You seem to be trying to imply that I'm committing an argument from ignorance, but I'm not. I'm observing that preferences exist, apart from our thoughts and feelings about preferences, and I label those preferences "True Will." I also assert that my definition of True Will is both functionally identical to what Crowley meant by the term and is, additionally, by far the most useful definition for actually working with True Will.


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Los
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14/10/2013 10:11 pm  
"jamie barter" wrote:
The bottom line in the ‘reasoning’ behind your thread appears to be that Intelligence must either be an accident or (less probably) it must  be design. You appear to rule out the possibility that it can ever serendipitously be both (e.g., a purposeful impression of an accident given by design, or of the purposeful appearance of a design that has been caused accidentally or by chance), and so therefore it seems that it has to be one or the other, and you are plumping for the former.  Please correct me if I am getting this wrong.

You have a few fundamental misunderstandings of the issue, so I'll try to explain it clearly.

The issue can be stated thusly: intelligent beings exist, complexity exists, and order exists. The question is: what accounts for those things?

Some postulate that those three things can only be the product of deliberate, intelligent design. Others argue that that is not a necessary conclusion and that, in fact, there is insufficient reason to think that the universe was designed. As I point out above, the actual argument for design is flawed and, since the argument is flawed, nobody would be rationally justified in accepting it.

Your attempt to engage my post by drawing a dichotomy and then providing laughable "other possibilities" is pretty muddled, so my response will involve a bit of unpacking.

In the first place, a true dichotomy would be "designed by intelligence" or "not designed by intelligence." I have been arguing that the argument in support of "designed by intelligence" is flawed and therefore should not be accepted. Further, I have suggested that the "not designed by intelligence" option is rendered far more plausible by the existence of mountains of evidence that indicate that complexity, intelligence, and order can be produced from simple things by natural processes.

You characterize the dichotomy as one between design and "accident" and then you suggest, supposedly as alternatives to those two options, "design that looks like an accident" (which would be a kind of design) or "an accident that looks like design" (which would be a kind of accident). In other words, you claim to offer new possibilities, but you just give more examples of the categories of the dichotomy.

The points I make about the flaw in the argument for design and the greater plausibility of "not designed by intelligence" stand.

why do you think A.C. was commanded to “abstruct” the Stele from the ill-ordered house?  Or carry out half a dozen other injunctions in The Book of the Law, if it really makes “no difference” in the material world?

I didn't say actions "make no difference." I said that Liber AL commands a Thelemite to "Let there be no difference made" between things (including actions).

I suggest you might read Will & The Wisp, my analysis of [...]

Thanks, but I'll pass.


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Hamal
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14/10/2013 10:39 pm  
"Los" wrote:
I have suggested that the "not designed by intelligence" option is rendered far more plausible by the existence of mountains of evidence that indicate that complexity, intelligence, and order can be produced from simple things by natural processes.

I fear you have embarked upon a fools errand here sir! And I find that I must grasp the sword of truth and set about your illusion.

You say that order can be produced from simple things by natural processes.

I say I know of no simple thing within nature, nor any simple natural process.

You conjure nature, declare it's products simple as if all thus were not made of the very structures for which one may argue design. It is akin to looking at a three dimensional model of the human body made in lego bricks and declaring that it is composed of simple products of lego and thus not designed.

😛
93
Hamal


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Los
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14/10/2013 10:48 pm  
"Hamal" wrote:
You say that order can be produced from simple things by natural processes.

I say I know of no simple thing within nature, nor any simple natural process.

Well, what I mean is that natural processes can produce complicated and orderly things out of simpler things. A good example of this is the snowflake, which is orderly and complex but is assembled from simpler things by natural processes.

Another example would be "higher" organisms that arise, naturally, from simpler ones.


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Hamal
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14/10/2013 10:55 pm  
"Los" wrote:
"Hamal" wrote:
You say that order can be produced from simple things by natural processes.

I say I know of no simple thing within nature, nor any simple natural process.

Well, what I mean is that natural processes can produce complicated and orderly things out of simpler things. A good example of this is the snowflake, which is orderly and complex but is assembled from simpler things by natural processes.

Another example would be "higher" organisms that arise, naturally, from simpler ones.

I can build complex models out of lego bricks, it is not an argument against design, if anything on the contrary. Also in nature the process by which complex things are made are complex, individual elements may appear simple, but just as with the lego brick the process by which a complex structure is created is inherently complex.

You could watch me build a complex structure with lego bricks and say it is a simple process of putting one lego brick on top of another. In fact aside from the fact that a creature who can do this is not simple but complex there are also the un-seen mental processes by which I am able to construct such a model.

93
Hamal


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the_real_simon_iff
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14/10/2013 11:35 pm  

Los, 93!

I don't see where you want to go with this discussion. Do you want us to show that Crowley once wrote of a "designed" universe and at other times wrote of "blind chance"? Most people know that. But it has no impact on Thelema at all. You can believe in a designed universe or a blind chance universe, what difference does it make? All you have to do as a Thelemite is to follow the "consecrated course" (Crowley's words) that is yours, whether it is designed or not is totally unimportant. You seem to imply that it is foolish to believe that this course is designed, but Crowley's Thelema at least clearly says that this course exists. Just follow it. Or don't, if you think Crowley was wrong there. OKontrair already said it, according to Crowley your own course in life is somehow designed. That doesn't mean necessarily that there is this one super-power who is responsible for all, but that there are powers unknown to us who guide or help us, or at least know better than us. You seem to say that believing in some kind of design is the same as believing in "God", and that this argument is full of flaws (though if you like you can always believe in a designer God who created this totally random universe), I say Crowley insisted on being led by some kind of God-like powers, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. You weren't there and I wasn't there, but he did believe so and it's a cornerstone of his philosophy that it is not man-made, but something "bigger". Buy it or not, being a Thelemite doesn't depend on that.

Love=Law
Lutz


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arthuremerson
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15/10/2013 1:48 am  
"the_real_simon_iff" wrote:
I don't see where you want to go with this discussion.

Toward a marriage of Crowley and Thelema to the scientific-materialist agenda of Dawkins and crew?


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Los
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15/10/2013 2:11 am  
"Hamal" wrote:
I can build complex models out of lego bricks, it is not an argument against design

Obviously. My objection isn't merely that complicated things are made of simpler things but that we can identify a natural mechanism by which simpler things can give rise to more complicated things.

Evolution actually shows how simpler organisms (say, primordial single-celled organisms) could, over the course of millions of years -- thanks to random mutations combined with environmental selective pressure -- give rise to more complicated and intelligent creatures.

The evidence that this is what happened on earth is tremendous, and any rational mind is compelled to accept that all modern species descended from common ancestors.


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Los
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15/10/2013 2:20 am  
"the_real_simon_iff" wrote:
I don't see where you want to go with this discussion.

I want to discuss Aleister Crowley and the argument from design. That is, I want to look at those places in his writing where Crowley engages with a fairly common argument for the existence of God. 

Do you want us to show that Crowley once wrote of a "designed" universe and at other times wrote of "blind chance"? Most people know that. But it has no impact on Thelema at all.

I didn't say it did. It's a personal belief that Crowley held and not part of Thelema. That's why I titled the thread "Aleister Crowley and the Argument from Design" and not "Thelema and the Argument from Design."

You can believe in a designed universe or a blind chance universe, what difference does it make? All you have to do as a Thelemite is to follow the "consecrated course" (Crowley's words) that is yours, whether it is designed or not is totally unimportant.

Right.

You seem to imply that it is foolish to believe that this course is designed

I'll do more than imply it: I'd be willing to say it directly.

but Crowley's Thelema at least clearly says that this course exists. Just follow it. Or don't

Ok.

You seem to say that believing in some kind of design is the same as believing in "God"

Well, obviously it's not the same thing, but the argument from design is used to argue for the existence of God and, more generally, other kinds of supernatural disembodied intelligence. I think the argument is flawed, for the reasons I've been explaining.

Buy it or not, being a Thelemite doesn't depend on that.

I agree. Someone can be a Thelemite and still believe foolish things, like the argument from design.

Of course, there's a different discussion waiting to be had about how useful it is to believe foolish things if one wants to practice Thelema as intelligently as possible. But my position on that question is well known.


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the_real_simon_iff
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15/10/2013 8:27 am  
"Los" wrote:
the argument from design is used to argue for the existence of God and, more generally, other kinds of supernatural disembodied intelligence. I think the argument is flawed, for the reasons I've been explaining.

93!

And I think that your chain of reason here is flawed. There is no neccessity to believe in a designed universe to accept the existence of extra-human intelligence. There is even no neccessity to reject the idea of design to not believe in extra-human intelligence. I think it is quite foolish to accept your extremely limited and prejudiced chain of reason here.

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Hamal
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15/10/2013 11:27 am  
"Los" wrote:
Obviously. My objection isn't merely that complicated things are made of simpler things but that we can identify a natural mechanism by which simpler things can give rise to more complicated things.

Evolution actually shows how simpler organisms (say, primordial single-celled organisms) could, over the course of millions of years -- thanks to random mutations combined with environmental selective pressure -- give rise to more complicated and intelligent creatures.

I fundamentally disagree that there is any form of life that is simple, the examples you choose only appear simple because you accept as given sub-atomic processes which neither you nor I understand. How therefore can we assert that these things are simple?

"Los" wrote:
The evidence that this is what happened on earth is tremendous, and any rational mind is compelled to accept that all modern species descended from common ancestors.

Self endorsement, not evidence.

93
Hamal


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jamie barter
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15/10/2013 12:47 pm  
"Los" wrote:
"jamie barter" wrote:
The bottom line in the ‘reasoning’ behind your thread appears to be that Intelligence must either be an accident or (less probably) it must  be design. You appear to rule out the possibility that it can ever serendipitously be both (e.g., a purposeful impression of an accident given by design, or of the purposeful appearance of a design that has been caused accidentally or by chance), and so therefore it seems that it has to be one or the other, and you are plumping for the former.  Please correct me if I am getting this wrong.

You have a few fundamental misunderstandings of the issue, so I'll try to explain it clearly.

Dreadfully kind of you, Los, as always…

"Los" wrote:
... The issue can be stated thusly: intelligent beings exist, complexity exists, and order exists. The question is: what accounts for those things?

Some postulate that those three things can only be the product of deliberate, intelligent design. Others argue that that is not a necessary conclusion and that, in fact, there is insufficient reason to think that the universe was designed. As I point out above, the actual argument for design is flawed and, since the argument is flawed, nobody would be rationally justified in accepting it.

Your attempt to engage my post by drawing a dichotomy and then providing laughable "other possibilities" is pretty muddled, so my response will involve a bit of unpacking.

In the first place, a true dichotomy would be "designed by intelligence" or "not designed by intelligence." I have been arguing that the argument in support of "designed by intelligence" is flawed and therefore should not be accepted. Further, I have suggested that the "not designed by intelligence" option is rendered far more plausible by the existence of mountains of evidence that indicate that complexity, intelligence, and order can be produced from simple things by natural processes.

You characterize the dichotomy as one between design and "accident" and then you suggest, supposedly as alternatives to those two options, "design that looks like an accident" (which would be a kind of design) or "an accident that looks like design" (which would be a kind of accident). In other words, you claim to offer new possibilities, but you just give more examples of the categories of the dichotomy.

The points I make about the flaw in the argument for design and the greater plausibility of "not designed by intelligence" stand.

Yes your dichotomy rears its ugly head, which is why I was pointing out (at some length, and in vain it seems) that this dichotomy partakes of an either/or scenario of mutual exclusivity, which you do not wish, or outrightly refuse, to take on board.

"Los" wrote:

why do you think A.C. was commanded to “abstruct” the Stele from the ill-ordered house?  Or carry out half a dozen other injunctions in The Book of the Law, if it really makes “no difference” in the material world?

I didn't say actions "make no difference." I said that Liber AL commands a Thelemite to "Let there be no difference made" between things (including actions).

Yes, and if you see from my earlier words just before that which you did not include in the quote: “I‘m not necessarily disagreeing with you here…”.  What you did say was: “there was no goal. […] It just so happens that this point links up perfectly with Thelemic practice” (which is, by implication, the correct practice to carry out, from all given possibilities).  But if there is indeed no goal at all, it makes rather a nonsense of any vaunted “Thelemic practices”, wouldn’t you say?

"Los" wrote:

I suggest you might read Will & The Wisp, my analysis of [...]

Thanks, but I'll pass.

So be it.  Although why you might wish to negatively reinforce the point is psychologically interesting.

You have not really answered my points satisfactorily, but I can see you are probably a busy man at present what with all the feedback & will generously not unduly press you at this point.  While some of what I’m saying is “anti-reason”, I don’t think the points are strictly “unreasonable” to deal with as a whole by someone who can engage with the wider picture, as for example the real simoniff alluding with specific reference to the issue of extra-terrestrial (in which I would include “ultra-” terrestrial) intelligence.

Also, I’m not sure what the title of this thread – “Argument from design” – means exactly - do you mean “Argument that the universe was created from a design” or “…with design in mind” or “purpose aforethought”?  There seems to be at least a word missing there, somewhere?

"arthuremerson" wrote:
"the_real_simon_iff" wrote:
I don't see where you want to go with this discussion.

Toward a marriage of Crowley and Thelema to the scientific-materialist agenda of Dawkins and crew?

A shotgun marriage of convenience arising from some phantom pregnancy, perhaps?

N Joy


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Los
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15/10/2013 2:46 pm  
"jamie barter" wrote:
your dichotomy [...] partakes of an either/or scenario of mutual exclusivity

That's what a true dichotomy is. As I was saying, "designed by intelligence" and "not designed by intelligence" is a true dichotomy. You were mischaracterizing the dichotomy as "design" and "accident," which may or may not be a true dichotomy. You then tried to demonstrate that your mischaracterization is not a true dichotomy by trying to show that these categories aren't mutually exclusive, but even then you failed (since a "design that looks like an accident" would be classified as "design" only, and an "accident that looks like design" would be classified as "accident" only).

I pointed all of that out, and then you just repeated yourself as if I'd said nothing at all.

What you did say was: “there was no goal. […] It just so happens that this point links up perfectly with Thelemic practice” (which is, by implication, the correct practice to carry out, from all given possibilities).  But if there is indeed no goal at all, it makes rather a nonsense of any vaunted “Thelemic practices”, wouldn’t you say?

The universe, having no ultimate goal, does not value one particular state over another. No outcome is "better" than any other from the perspective of the universe. The universe is utterly indifferent to everything that happens.

Thelema teaches its aspirants to cultivate a similar indifference, to "Let there be no difference made" between any two outcomes. Thelema teaches that no state, outcome, or action is intrinsically "better" than anything else, in exactly the same way that nothing is intrinsically "better" or "worse" to the universe.

In order to contrast two things in terms of which one is "better," you need a basis of comparison. If we arrange numbers on a number line, we can definitely make a difference between them. The difference between three and two is one. But what's the difference between cheese and Wednesday? A pencil and a coffee cup? A pencil is "better" than a coffee cup for the specific task of writing, but it can't be said to be ultimately "better," without qualification.

We can't say, ultimately, without any qualifiers, that one thing is "better" than another. That means we can't say that, for example, helping the poor is "better" than partying all night or that being nice to be people is "better" than being mean or that showing deep respect for others' beliefs is "better" than calling them fruitloops and laughing at their stupid excuses for beliefs.

So, wait, if one action isn't ultimately "better" than any other, how does one decide what to do? According to Thelema, one decides by discerning one's authentic inclinations in a situation (i.e. "True Will"), not by adhering to one's ideas about what the "right thing" to do is. Thelema teaches that nearly everybody has obscured their ability to see their authentic inclinations clearly by the distorting influences of the mind (which prevents the aspirant from seeing things as they are by deluding him into that some actions are "better" than others because they are "the right thing" or "the kind of thing that good/wise people do" or "what a real magician would do in a situation like this," etc.).

And yes, to anticipate your next point, that means that practicing Thelema isn't "better" than not practicing Thelema. Do it if you want to, or not. If you want to do it, then there are certain ways to do it intelligently, but it's not some ultimate goal to which everyone must aspire.

There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt.


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Michael Staley
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15/10/2013 3:18 pm  
"Los" wrote:
. . . one decides by discerning one's authentic inclinations in a situation . . .

And how does one ascertain whether the inclinations so discerned are "authentic" or otherwise?


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Los
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15/10/2013 3:38 pm  
"MichaelStaley" wrote:
"Los" wrote:
. . . one decides by discerning one's authentic inclinations in a situation . . .

And how does one ascertain whether the inclinations so discerned are "authentic" or otherwise?

Excellent question. We might turn to Crowley's writings to see that he advocated methods for "destroying 'evil,'" as he puts it in Reguli: that is, getting the aspirant to perceive as accurately as possible, free from the distorting influences of the mind that cloud perception with the idea that one thing is "good" and another thing is "evil."

As one begins to identify and ameliorate the influences of these distorting influences of the mind, one begins to act more and more in line with the authentic inclinations.

I've written fairly extensively on this topic, and if you're interested, you can read more here, among other places: http://thelema-and-skepticism.blogspot.com/2012/05/thats-what-he-said-ii-distorting.html

The bottom line, though, is that Thelema requires us to develop our natural ability to distinguish reality from fantasy so that we can identify those fantasies about "good" and "evil" that are misleading us, clearing space for our natural inclinations to manifest themselves more fully.


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Shiva
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15/10/2013 3:48 pm  

"There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt"
except for
[/align:2qbzcz31]

"MS" wrote:
And how does one ascertain whether the inclinations so discerned are "authentic" or otherwise?

"Many noted existentialist writers consider the theme of authentic existence to be of importance. Authentic existence involves the idea that one has to "create oneself" and then live in accordance with this self. What is meant by authenticity is that in acting, one should act as oneself, not as "one" acts or as "one's genes" or any other essence requires. The authentic act is one that is in accordance with one's freedom. Of course, as a condition of freedom is facticity, this includes one's facticity, but not to the degree that this facticity can in any way determine one's choices (in the sense that one could then blame one's background for making the choice one made). The role of facticity in relation to authenticity involves letting one's actual values come into play when one makes a choice, so that one also takes responsibility for the act instead of choosing either-or without allowing the options to have different values."
- Wikipedia

Well, that's about as clear as any other method of directing one's life!  😮


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Los
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15/10/2013 3:57 pm  
"Shiva" wrote:
"Many noted existentialist writers consider the theme of authentic existence to be of importance.

I'm not using the term "authentic" specifically in regard to existentialism or any other particular school of formal philosophy. When I talk about "authentic inclinations," I mean something like an inclination to eat red meat in distinction to the thought that it's "bad" for you, or the inclination toward a particular kinky fetish in distinction to the thought that it's "unmanly" or "too weird" (and therefore bad).

I'm talking about what the Self actually wants to do, regardless of what the mind thinks about it.


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jamie barter
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15/10/2013 4:53 pm  
"Los" wrote:
"jamie barter" wrote:
your dichotomy [...] partakes of an either/or scenario of mutual exclusivity

That's what a true dichotomy is. As I was saying, "designed by intelligence" and "not designed by intelligence" is a true dichotomy. You were mischaracterizing the dichotomy as "design" and "accident," which may or may not be a true dichotomy. You then tried to demonstrate that your mischaracterization is not a true dichotomy by trying to show that these categories aren't mutually exclusive, but even then you failed (since a "design that looks like an accident" would be classified as "design" only, and an "accident that looks like design" would be classified as "accident" only).

Actually my idea of a “true dichotomy” (your [spikily inelegant] phrase there, ditto with "mischaracterization") incorporated “both/ and”.  And it’s true in a sense, that they aren’t mutually exclusive in the same way that your “either/ or” scenario is.

I rather feel we are bandying words about in the semantic playground here - does your use of “design” mean, as it implies, “intelligence”?  And your “accident” the same thing as “Chance”? 

"Los" wrote:
I pointed all of that out, and then you just repeated yourself as if I'd said nothing at all.

Not quite: I was clarifying it – or attempting to clarify it - obviously, to little avail!

"Los" wrote:

What you did say was: “there was no goal. […] It just so happens that this point links up perfectly with Thelemic practice” (which is, by implication, the correct practice to carry out, from all given possibilities).  But if there is indeed no goal at all, it makes rather a nonsense of any vaunted “Thelemic practices”, wouldn’t you say?

The universe, having no ultimate goal, does not value one particular state over another. No outcome is "better" than any other from the perspective of the universe. The universe is utterly indifferent to everything that happens.

You do not – cannot – know this “for sure”!  It is your perspective, judgement, reasoning, whatever – based upon what you consider to be true.  It may, or may not, be right for all people and in all cases, and you certainly can’t speak for “the universe”.

"Los" wrote:
Thelema teaches its aspirants to cultivate a similar indifference, to "Let there be no difference made" between any two outcomes.

Similar, but not quite the “same”.

"Los" wrote:
Thelema teaches that no state, outcome, or action is intrinsically "better" than anything else, in exactly the same way that nothing is intrinsically "better" or "worse" to the universe.

I think I see what you mean here – rather didactically put, as usual – yet surely if someone is not carrying out their True Will, that would be “worse” (for them, even also for the universe) than if that someone were to be, which would be “better”.

"Los" wrote:
In order to contrast two things in terms of which one is "better," you need a basis of comparison. If we arrange numbers on a number line, we can definitely make a difference between them. The difference between three and two is one. But what's the difference between cheese and Wednesday? A pencil and a coffee cup? A pencil is "better" than a coffee cup for the specific task of writing, but it can't be said to be ultimately "better," without qualification.

We can't say, ultimately, without any qualifiers, that one thing is "better" than another. That means we can't say that, for example, helping the poor is "better" than partying all night or that being nice to be people is "better" than being mean or that showing deep respect for others' beliefs is "better" than calling them fruitloops and laughing at their stupid excuses for beliefs.

I’m in broad agreement with you here.

"Los" wrote:
So, wait, if one action isn't ultimately "better" than any other, how does one decide what to do? According to Thelema, one decides by discerning one's authentic inclinations in a situation (i.e. "True Will"), not by adhering to one's ideas about what the "right thing" to do is. Thelema teaches that nearly everybody has obscured their ability to see their authentic inclinations clearly by the distorting influences of the mind (which prevents the aspirant from seeing things as they are by deluding him into that some actions are "better" than others because they are "the right thing" or "the kind of thing that good/wise people do" or "what a real magician would do in a situation like this," etc.).

Again, deep within the verbiage I more or less agree.  I take it by “authentic inclinations” you are referring to the “preferences” you earlier referred to, and which Crowley attributes to the individual tendencies?

"MichaelStaley" wrote:
"Los" wrote:
. . . one decides by discerning one's authentic inclinations in a situation . . .

And how does one ascertain whether the inclinations so discerned are "authentic" or otherwise?

Yes – a very good question here!  Your answer is… Los?
(Actually, “*Edit*” - I can see that since turning to this in the last hour or so it has been dealt with – so let’s forget that)

"Los" wrote:
And yes, to anticipate your next point,

Tut-tut, that wouldn’t have been my next point at all.  Honestly!

"Los" wrote:
that means that practicing Thelema isn't "better" than not practicing Thelema. Do it if you want to, or not. If you want to do it, then there are certain ways to do it intelligently,

Will” rather than “want”, surely?

"Los" wrote:
but it's not some ultimate goal to which everyone must aspire.

No, surely there is no “goal” since the journey, the Way, the Path, of which there is no beginning and there is no end, nada nada – that is the goal in itself?  And if every man and every woman is a star, each has their own individual orbit, their true path, unique to themselves.

"Los" wrote:
... I've written fairly extensively on this topic, and if you're interested, you can read more here, among other places: http://thelema-and-skepticism.blogspot.com/2012/05/thats-what-he-said-ii-distorting.html

As you yourself said so politely, Los: “Thanks, but I’ll pass.”

"Los" wrote:
There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt.

- Do that, & no other shall whinny “neigh”.
N Joy


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Hamal
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15/10/2013 5:06 pm  
"Los" wrote:
The universe, having no ultimate goal, does not value one particular state over another. No outcome is "better" than any other from the perspective of the universe. The universe is utterly indifferent to everything that happens.

You can't drop a clanger like that into the middle of a discussion and expect to get away with it! No, no, no... in your opinion....

There are many theories I could propose, the ultimate truth of which may well be beyond our comprehension. I therefore work on the basis of a number of possible parameters rather than suffer the wrong-mindedness that comes from concrete error.

93
Hamal


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Los
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15/10/2013 6:36 pm  
"jamie barter" wrote:
Actually my idea of a “true dichotomy” [...] incorporated “both/ and”.

Well, look, I use "true dichotomy" to indicate two mutually exclusive options. An example of a true dichotomy would be "A" and "Not A."

That's why I said that "designed by intelligence" and "not designed by intelligence" is a true dichotomy. Something cannot fall into both categories, at the same time in the same way. In this case, if you had something that were designed by intelligence but made to look like it were not designed by intelligence, we would still classify it only in the "designed by intelligence" category. And if we didn't have enough evidence to know that it were designed, we would mistakenly classify it only in the "not designed by intelligence" category. It cannot be both because the categories are mutually exclusive.

What part of this is difficult to grasp?

The flaw in the designer argument is that, by concluding that everything is designed by intelligence, the argument renders it impossible to identify design in the first place, defeating itself.

"Los" wrote:
The universe, having no ultimate goal, does not value one particular state over another. No outcome is "better" than any other from the perspective of the universe. The universe is utterly indifferent to everything that happens.

You do not – cannot – know this “for sure”!

I didn't say I did know it for sure. I was expressing the position held by the Book of the Law, which tells us, explicitly, that "Every number is infinite; there is no difference" and instructs Thelemites to "Let there be no difference made" between things.

Now, personally, I happen to agree with Liber AL, not because I have some "for sure" knowledge of it but because, as far as I can tell, all of the arguments for there being some "intrinsic meaning" to the universe are insufficiently supported and nobody has any justification for accepting them.

"Los" wrote:
Thelema teaches that no state, outcome, or action is intrinsically "better" than anything else, in exactly the same way that nothing is intrinsically "better" or "worse" to the universe.

I think I see what you mean here – rather didactically put, as usual – yet surely if someone is not carrying out their True Will, that would be “worse” (for them, even also for the universe) than if that someone were to be, which would be “better”.

Not necessarily. It depends on the scale we're using to measure "better" or "worse." And that's the point: all acts of judging something "better" or "worse" are acts of human judgment dependent on our relatively arbitrary scales.

The universe doesn't give a hoot whether you're "doing your True Will," and -- possibly ironically -- in order to perceive and do your True Will well, you need to get yourself to a point where you don't give a hoot, either. You're not doing because it's "good" for you to do. You're just doing whatever because it's authentically what you want to do in that situation.


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Los
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15/10/2013 6:52 pm  
"Hamal" wrote:
There are many theories I could propose, the ultimate truth of which may well be beyond our comprehension.

If you propose an idea whose truth is actually "beyond our comprehension," then nobody -- including you -- would ever have sufficient reason to think it true.


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Hamal
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15/10/2013 7:34 pm  
"Los" wrote:
"Hamal" wrote:
There are many theories I could propose, the ultimate truth of which may well be beyond our comprehension.

If you propose an idea whose truth is actually "beyond our comprehension," then nobody -- including you -- would ever have sufficient reason to think it true.

Sufficient reason?

If the truth of a purpose for the universe is beyond our comprehension, then that's what it is, it does not matter whether you or I think it is true.

Imagine some microscopic life-form existing in our bellies. It may come to comprehend in its own way the whole vast universe of our stomach, but that this is part of a larger vehicle possessed of its own intelligence it would be fair to say was most likely beyond its comprehension.

I see no reason not to think that our own position is something similar to the microbe, we are totally missing the entire concept of why our universe exists and a greater purpose beyond our comprehension. Is not Kether also often referred to as the Unknowable Godhead?

93
Hamal


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Los
 Los
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16/10/2013 4:03 am  
"Hamal" wrote:
If the truth of a purpose for the universe is beyond our comprehension, then that's what it is, it does not matter whether you or I think it is true.

But if there is a purpose for the universe that is actually "beyond our comprehension," then we could never figure it out, meaning that, practically speaking, the universe would function as if it did not have a purpose.

I see no reason not to think that our own position is something similar to the microbe

There's also no reason not to think that we're butterflies dreaming that we're people.

There's also no reason not to think that we're in a giant computer simulation, like in the movie The Matrix.

There's also no reason not to think that the universe was created last Tuesday by a cosmic hippo who gave us the memories that we have.

There are zillions of possibilities that can't be falsified. If your justification for accepting one of those possibilities is "Gee, no reason not to think so!" then you're just randomly choosing to believe stuff.


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Hamal
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16/10/2013 11:30 am  
"Los" wrote:
But if there is a purpose for the universe that is actually "beyond our comprehension," then we could never figure it out, meaning that, practically speaking, the universe would function as if it did not have a purpose.

Surely you are confusing perception with reality. Now, it may be that your reality and mine are different, but it may also be that there is one truth and if so then simply because you perceive no purpose would not change the fact that there is or isn't one (subject to the proviso that we share the same reality, which of course we may not).

"Los" wrote:

I see no reason not to think that our own position is something similar to the microbe

There's also no reason not to think that we're butterflies dreaming that we're people.

There's also no reason not to think that we're in a giant computer simulation, like in the movie The Matrix.

There's also no reason not to think that the universe was created last Tuesday by a cosmic hippo who gave us the memories that we have.

There are zillions of possibilities that can't be falsified.

Precisely!

"Los" wrote:
If your justification for accepting one of those possibilities is "Gee, no reason not to think so!" then you're just randomly choosing to believe stuff.

I don't. I'm not arrogant enough to think that I know the answers, so I work with a range of possible parameters. That is all any of us can do, all else is self indulgence and delusion!

93
Hamal


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jamie barter
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16/10/2013 12:47 pm  
"Los" wrote:
"jamie barter" wrote:
Actually my idea of a “true dichotomy” [...] incorporated “both/ and”.

Well, look, I use "true dichotomy" to indicate two mutually exclusive options. An example of a true dichotomy would be "A" and "Not A."

That's why I said that "designed by intelligence" and "not designed by intelligence" is a true dichotomy. Something cannot fall into both categories, at the same time in the same way. In this case, if you had something that were designed by intelligence but made to look like it were not designed by intelligence, we would still classify it only in the "designed by intelligence" category. And if we didn't have enough evidence to know that it were designed, we would mistakenly classify it only in the "not designed by intelligence" category. It cannot be both because the categories are mutually exclusive.

What part of this is difficult to grasp?

I accept that A (if we call A “design”) cannot ultimately be identifiable in terms of itself, as I believe you have said – it needs to be defined in reference to B, which in turn needs C, etc etc etc all the way to Z and beyond.  A “true” dichotomy (again, your wording here) would necessarily have to include what is “Not A” to try to define what is A, and vice versa.  There is no “absolute purity” of A in itself, and similarly it is ultimately not possible, at the present stage of evolution, to “absolutely” determine whether the design may be accidentally caused, or whether intelligence wishes for some reason known to itself to disguise itself – as the deus absconditus or hidden god – and maybe to give the impression of accidental chance arbitrariness.

Which part of this is difficult to grasp?

You wrote earlier:

I would be delighted to have people challenge my conclusions and build a reasoned argument against mine

- of course, the “reasoned” argument is your sting in the tail here - yet I somehow get the feeling that if we were to debate for a thousand million years you would not change your opinion.  In fact I would be most startled to read, one fine day Los, your coming on to a thread with a damascene change of heart and recording: “Would you believe it?!  I’ve been wrong all along and I’ve only just seen the light!  Oojamathumps and hocus-pocus does exist!  Last night believe it or not, I evoked a daimon who then proceeded to give me a channelled text…”

What do you reckon are the “odds” on that?!?

"Los" wrote:
The flaw in the designer argument is that, by concluding that everything is designed by intelligence, the argument renders it impossible to identify design in the first place, defeating itself.

Yeah – so?  And Then??

"Los" wrote:
"Los" wrote:
The universe, having no ultimate goal, does not value one particular state over another. No outcome is "better" than any other from the perspective of the universe. The universe is utterly indifferent to everything that happens.

You do not – cannot – know this “for sure”!

I didn't say I did know it for sure. I was expressing the position held by the Book of the Law, which tells us, explicitly, that "Every number is infinite; there is no difference" and instructs Thelemites to "Let there be no difference made" between things.

The words are yours & the interpretation is yours, here.  Aiwass/ Nuit in The Book of the Law does not say: “I do not value one particular state over another; no outcome is any better than any other from my perspective, and I am utterly indifferent to everything that happens.”  Apart from anything else that would make a nonsense of the idea of progress, evolution or incarnation at all – unless this is what you are saying?”  Also, when The Book of the Law says “no”, it may not necessarily mean no in itself, it may instead or as well be some sort of a cabbalistic cipher superceding the primary meaning.

"Los" wrote:
Now, personally, I happen to agree with Liber AL, not because I have some "for sure" knowledge of it but because, as far as I can tell, all of the arguments for there being some "intrinsic meaning" to the universe are insufficiently supported and nobody has any justification for accepting them.

But surely you are not expecting some “absolute proof”?  In which case, you will be waiting from now until doomsday.  Nobody “has any justification” for accepting that there is “no” meaning to the universe either (and which contrary hypothesis is also insufficiently supported).

"Los" wrote:
"Los" wrote:
Thelema teaches that no state, outcome, or action is intrinsically "better" than anything else, in exactly the same way that nothing is intrinsically "better" or "worse" to the universe.

I think I see what you mean here – rather didactically put, as usual – yet surely if someone is not carrying out their True Will, that would be “worse” (for them, even also for the universe) than if that someone were to be, which would be “better”.

Not necessarily. It depends on the scale we're using to measure "better" or "worse." And that's the point: all acts of judging something "better" or "worse" are acts of human judgment dependent on our relatively arbitrary scales.

The universe doesn't give a hoot whether you're "doing your True Will," and -- possibly ironically -- in order to perceive and do your True Will well, you need to get yourself to a point where you don't give a hoot, either.

I cannot agree with this position – for one thing, you’re speaking on behalf of the whole universe again.  Don’t you ever get a swelled head by doing so, old chum?!

"Los" wrote:
You're not doing because it's "good" for you to do. You're just doing whatever because it's authentically what you want to do in that situation.

This is a bit more agreeable, although it doesn’t necessarily “logically” follow on from your previous sentence in the paragraph.

You rather seem to cherry-pick your answers to correspondents’ points, Los: if you don’t wish to deal with something which may be a bit awkward, you just ignore that bit completely.  Fair play to you, but don’t delude yourself that it has gone undetected!  (For example, from earlier: do you semantically equate (as you appear to) design with intelligence and accident with Chance – simple question, yes or no.)  I can also detect your strategy in trying to wear someone’s argument down by sheer weight of words and repeating – bludgeoning them with – the same argument ad infinitum (– or so it seems!) in slightly different words.  It won’t work indefinitely, but I’m prepared to pay you out enough rope for the time being to see what you will manage to do with it, as it’s at least moderately entertaining.

"Los" wrote:
... There are zillions of possibilities that can't be falsified. If your justification for accepting one of those possibilities is "Gee, no reason not to think so!" then you're just randomly choosing to believe stuff.

You have of course just been making out a case throughout for the seeming supremacy of the random, aka chance, aka accident.  In which case, why the hoot would it matter if one randomly (as opposed to intelligently) chooses to do anything, when everything is random in a random universe anyway?

Preferring to think instead that everything is randy in a randy universe (2=0)!
N Joy


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Los
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16/10/2013 3:14 pm  
"jamie barter" wrote:
"Los" wrote:
The flaw in the designer argument is that, by concluding that everything is designed by intelligence, the argument renders it impossible to identify design in the first place, defeating itself.

Yeah – so?  And Then??

Then we've got insufficient reason to think that the universe was designed by intelligence. So the rational thing would be not to accept that claim.

But surely you are not expecting some “absolute proof”?

Of course not. I accept claims for which there is sufficient evidence, and I don't accept claims for which there isn't sufficient evidence, and I correct my ideas as new evidence comes to light. 

There are lots of claims about the universe having some "intrinsic meaning," and all of these claims -- as far as I can tell -- have failed to meet their burden of proof. So I don't accept any of them, and I'm not going to accept any ideas about the universe having "intrinsic meaning" until there's sufficient evidence to do so.

Now, depending on exactly what we mean, we may or may not be able to say that there's sufficient evidence for the claim that the universe has no meaning. A good comparison would be to claims about leprechauns. There is insufficient evidence to say that there are leprechauns, and I suppose -- in a really technical philosophical sense -- I would have to say, "I remain in the position of not accepting the claim" and can't say anything more about it.

But if we're speaking in practical terms -- in terms of the universe as we actually know it and interact with it -- I'd be willing to say that there are no leprechauns. In fact, I think in any day-to-day context -- in pretty much any context other than the most abstruse of philosophical discussions -- I'd be willing to say that I know there are no leprechauns. When I say that, I'm not making any kind of absolute claims or saying that I'm 100% sure that nowhere in the entire universe has there ever been a leprechaun -- I'm simply saying that those things really do not seem to exist in any practical way at all, and I'm very confident of that.

It's very similar with "intrinsic meaning." In an abstruse philosophical context, I'd have to admit that I merely have insufficient evidence to say that intrinsic meaning exists, but in any other context -- including the practical matter of deciding how to live my life -- I have no problem saying that the universe doesn't have a meaning and doesn't care one way or another what happens.

If you don't agree, then make a case for the existence of intrinsic meaning.

You rather seem to cherry-pick your answers to correspondents’ points, Los

I'm not going point-by-point through your tedious posts. If you think you've made some kind of significant point that you want me to address, make a short post where you make just that one point, and I'm very likely to respond to it.


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Los
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16/10/2013 3:19 pm  
"Hamal" wrote:
Surely you are confusing perception with reality. Now, it may be that your reality and mine are different, but it may also be that there is one truth and if so then simply because you perceive no purpose would not change the fact that there is or isn't one (subject to the proviso that we share the same reality, which of course we may not).

You were proposing the existence of a purpose to the universe that is "beyond comprehension." If that's the case, then it would be functionally identical to there being no purpose to the universe.

To use a classic example, let's say that I tell you I have a dragon in my garage. You, of course, would love to see it, but I tell you that it's a creature "beyond comprehension." Human minds can never understand it, so as a result, no one can detect it with any of the senses or detect any effect it has on reality whatsoever.

So, then, if you were smart, you'd have two questions for me:
1) How do you know the dragon's actually there?
2) Isn't what you're saying functionally identical to you not having a dragon at all?

Things that are actually "beyond comprehension" are indistinguishable from things that don't exist.


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Hamal
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16/10/2013 4:30 pm  
"Los" wrote:
You were proposing the existence of a purpose to the universe that is "beyond comprehension." If that's the case, then it would be functionally identical to there being no purpose to the universe.

No I wasn't! I challenged your concrete assertion:

"Los" wrote:
The universe, having no ultimate goal, does not value one particular state over another. No outcome is "better" than any other from the perspective of the universe. The universe is utterly indifferent to everything that happens.

And countered it with other potential "theories" (because that's all you yourself have, a theory, nothing in anyway more concrete):

"Hamal" wrote:
There are many theories I could propose, the ultimate truth of which may well be beyond our comprehension. I therefore work on the basis of a number of possible parameters rather than suffer the wrong-mindedness that comes from concrete error.

You latched onto this "beyond comprehension" business and said:

"Los" wrote:
You were proposing the existence of a purpose to the universe that is "beyond comprehension." If that's the case, then it would be functionally identical to there being no purpose to the universe.

Which is utter nonsense in my opinion. You then expanded on that:

"Los" wrote:
To use a classic example, let's say that I tell you I have a dragon in my garage. You, of course, would love to see it, but I tell you that it's a creature "beyond comprehension." Human minds can never understand it, so as a result, no one can detect it with any of the senses or detect any effect it has on reality whatsoever.

So, then, if you were smart, you'd have two questions for me:
1) How do you know the dragon's actually there?
2) Isn't what you're saying functionally identical to you not having a dragon at all?

Things that are actually "beyond comprehension" are indistinguishable from things that don't exist.

I fully understand what you are saying, but you are wrong. You seem to demand proof for all theories but your own, which of course require no proof and are absolute.

Firstly, a dragon in a garage is by definition comprehendible, it's a dragon. We have some ideas of what a dragon would be. When I talk about beyond comprehension I mean something that we do not know nor have any likelihood of ever knowing.

If a dragon is in a garage, a dragon is in garage, it is no less true because you haven't seen or heard it. It matters little whether you believe it or not, if it's there, it's there.

Now maybe you would like to prove your own "theory" that you seen to think is concrete fact:

"Los" wrote:
The universe, having no ultimate goal, does not value one particular state over another. No outcome is "better" than any other from the perspective of the universe. The universe is utterly indifferent to everything that happens.

And live up to the same standards of proof you seem to expect from others, despite the fact that unlike you we only propose possibilities, not concrete assertions. It is not good enough to conclude that chaos is the default truth unless proved otherwise, it too must be subject to any demands of proof.

93
Hamal


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Los
 Los
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16/10/2013 4:50 pm  
"Hamal" wrote:
You seem to demand proof for all theories but your own, which of course require no proof and are absolute.

You have to be careful with those "seems." As I said to Jamie:

I accept claims for which there is sufficient evidence, and I don't accept claims for which there isn't sufficient evidence, and I correct my ideas as new evidence comes to light. 

There are lots of claims about the universe having some "intrinsic meaning," and all of these claims -- as far as I can tell -- have failed to meet their burden of proof. So I don't accept any of them, and I'm not going to accept any ideas about the universe having "intrinsic meaning" until there's sufficient evidence to do so.

Now, depending on exactly what we mean, we may or may not be able to say that there's sufficient evidence for the claim that the universe has no meaning. A good comparison would be to claims about leprechauns. There is insufficient evidence to say that there are leprechauns, and I suppose -- in a really technical philosophical sense -- I would have to say, "I remain in the position of not accepting the claim" and can't say anything more about it.

But if we're speaking in practical terms -- in terms of the universe as we actually know it and interact with it -- I'd be willing to say that there are no leprechauns. In fact, I think in any day-to-day context -- in pretty much any context other than the most abstruse of philosophical discussions -- I'd be willing to say that I know there are no leprechauns. When I say that, I'm not making any kind of absolute claims or saying that I'm 100% sure that nowhere in the entire universe has there ever been a leprechaun -- I'm simply saying that those things really do not seem to exist in any practical way at all, and I'm very confident of that.

It's very similar with "intrinsic meaning." In an abstruse philosophical context, I'd have to admit that I merely have insufficient evidence to say that intrinsic meaning exists, but in any other context -- including the practical matter of deciding how to live my life -- I have no problem saying that the universe doesn't have a meaning and doesn't care one way or another what happens.

If you don't agree, then make a case for the existence of intrinsic meaning.


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Hamal
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16/10/2013 5:22 pm  

Los,

You and I are in fact not a million miles apart. I abide by the words of a wise teacher I once had:

"PARAMETERS NOT PERIMETERS"

I have parameters which represent my current understanding of the universe. These parameters haven't just been plucked out of fresh air they have evolved subject to experience. They will continue to evolve based on experience. If my experience conflicts with my parameters then my parameters are wrong and must evolve... Parameters not perimeters. My parameters do not limit my contemplation of other possibilities..... Parameters not perimeters.

You seem to hold a default position of disbelief without proof to convince you otherwise. But where this argument grates with others is in that obviously you must have a current set of parameters, and you do and you assert these strongly, you assert these are fact. But in reality your facts are just parameters, no more or less subject to proof than anyone else's theories. I'm just not sure at times that you realise this? You say you do not believe in things because you have no proof nor any direct experience of them. I would hold a slightly different position, that I have never encountered nor have any experience of something would mean it is currently out-with my parameters. Im not saying I believe nor disbelieve in it, I do no know, I can only express opinions on matters I have experience of. Once I go beyond that I risk creating perimeters, which are limiting.

Different approaches, not a million miles apart.

93
Hamal


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jamie barter
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16/10/2013 5:26 pm  
"Los" wrote:
"jamie barter" wrote:
"Los" wrote:
The flaw in the designer argument is that, by concluding that everything is designed by intelligence, the argument renders it impossible to identify design in the first place, defeating itself.

Yeah – so?  And Then??

Then we've got insufficient reason to think that the universe was designed by intelligence. So the rational thing would be not to accept that claim.

Well then we’ve got insufficient (absolute) reason to think anything with any certainty, and the “rational” thing would not be to accept any claim.

"Los" wrote:

But surely you are not expecting some “absolute proof”?

Of course not. I accept claims for which there is sufficient evidence,

So what is “sufficient evidence”?  Sufficient enough for the mind of Los, I take it?

"Los" wrote:
and I correct my ideas as new evidence comes to light.

Well that’s something, I suppose.  But according to exactly the same criteria - no doubt.

"Los" wrote:
There are lots of claims about the universe having some "intrinsic meaning," and all of these claims -- as far as I can tell -- have failed to meet their burden of proof. So I don't accept any of them, and I'm not going to accept any ideas about the universe having "intrinsic meaning" until there's sufficient evidence to do so. ...

It's very similar with "intrinsic meaning." In an abstruse philosophical context, I'd have to admit that I merely have insufficient evidence to say that intrinsic meaning exists, but in any other context -- including the practical matter of deciding how to live my life -- I have no problem saying that the universe doesn't have a meaning and doesn't care one way or another what happens.

If you don't agree, then make a case for the existence of intrinsic meaning.

I take it by asking for “intrinsic meaning”, this is another way of asking the same thing here as for your earlier “sufficient evidence”.  Tell me, sir, are you or have you ever been a (gasp) Chaos Magician?

"Los" wrote:
Now, depending on exactly what we mean, we may or may not be able to say that there's sufficient evidence for the claim that the universe has no meaning.

And you win this week’s star prize for the most inelegant convoluted contortion of the English language…

"Los" wrote:
... A good comparison would be to claims about leprechauns. There is insufficient evidence to say that there are leprechauns, and I suppose -- in a really technical philosophical sense -- I would have to say, "I remain in the position of not accepting the claim" and can't say anything more about it.

But if we're speaking in practical terms -- in terms of the universe as we actually know it and interact with it -- I'd be willing to say that there are no leprechauns. In fact, I think in any day-to-day context -- in pretty much any context other than the most abstruse of philosophical discussions -- I'd be willing to say that I know there are no leprechauns. When I say that, I'm not making any kind of absolute claims or saying that I'm 100% sure that nowhere in the entire universe has there ever been a leprechaun -- I'm simply saying that those things really do not seem to exist in any practical way at all, and I'm very confident of that.

Would this be qualitatively any different to your claims about hobgoblins?

‘ friend of mine once claimed to have seen a gnome in the woods.  He was on magic mushrooms at the time, I might add.  But I couldn’t actually completely disprove with 100% certainty what he saw and tell him “no, you were imagining the whole thing”, despite the fact that I have seen no such apparitions myself (unless you count a dryad peeping from behind a tree).

"Los" wrote:

You rather seem to cherry-pick your answers to correspondents’ points, Los

I'm not going point-by-point through your tedious posts. If you think you've made some kind of significant point that you want me to address, make a short post where you make just that one point, and I'm very likely to respond to it.

I believe I have already done this several times?  And given you a choice as to which ones you might want to (try to) answer first.  Leaving aside the (still unanswered) posts on the Thelemic Practice thread, I have asked you three times on this one whether or not you equate design with intelligence and randomness or accident with Chance.  Simple enough to answer, I would have thought, but no, you seemingly don’t wish to!!  Try that one for a starter for ten.

“Tedious posts”?  I would not mind betting, that between yours and my postings, in a straw poll the dead weight of your prose would win hands down over mine.  And at least I don’t presume to lecture people on how they should be thinking & improving themselves ”the Los way”!

With yet another of those tedious sign-offs which you hate so much,
N Joy


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Los
 Los
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17/10/2013 5:09 am  
"Hamal" wrote:
You seem to hold a default position of disbelief without proof to convince you otherwise.

The default position is not to accept a claim until there is sufficient evidence for that claim. "Not accepting a claim" is not automatically an affirmation of the negation of the claim -- it's just a position of not accepting a particular claim.

But where this argument grates with others is in that obviously you must have a current set of parameters, and you do and you assert these strongly, you assert these are fact. But in reality your facts are just parameters, no more or less subject to proof than anyone else's theories.

I'm not so sure I agree with you there. That there is insufficient evidence for the existence of leprechauns (or intrinsic meaning, et cetera) isn't "no more or less subject to proof than anyone else's theories." This remains the case even if I assert my point a bit more forcefully or in more practical, straightforward language.

Take, to use another common example, claims about Bigfoot. The default position is not to accept claims about Bigfoot until there is sufficient evidence for them. People who theorize that Bigfoot exists have not sufficiently supported their case, so I contend that the rational position is not to accept the claim that Bigfoot exists. It's not the case that my position is "no more or less subject to proof than anyone else's theories," as if it were just as likely that Bigfoot exists as not. My position -- that is, remaining in the default position of not believing the claim -- is the one justified by the evidence as it currently stands.

Im not saying I believe nor disbelieve in it, I do no know

Knowledge is a subset of belief ("justified belief" or "true belief"). We believe claims (accept that they are likely to be true) based on evidence. When the evidence is especially strong, we are willing to label strongly-supported beliefs "knowledge."

When the evidence is weak, insufficient, inconclusive, or non-existent, the rational position is not to accept the claim.


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Los
 Los
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17/10/2013 5:14 am  
"jamie barter" wrote:
Well then we’ve got insufficient (absolute) reason to think anything with any certainty, and the “rational” thing would not be to accept any claim.

The only one talking about "absolute" anything on this thread is you.

When people talk about accepting claims, they mean that they think the claim is likely to be true, based on evidence. "Absolute certainty" is both impossible and irrelevant because nobody lives their life on absolute certainty.

So what is “sufficient evidence”?

The kind of evidence that counts as sufficient is going to vary depending on the nature of the claim, the evidence offered, and the logical process that connects the evidence to the claim.

But for each given situation -- each set of claim, evidence, and reasoning -- we can objectively conclude whether the evidence is sufficient to support the claim.

“Tedious posts”?

Yes.


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jamie barter
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17/10/2013 12:05 pm  

Los: Your persistent refusal to answer point-blank points and wittering on about sideline irrelevancies in the hope of diverting attention away (e.g. my reference to ‘absolutes’) is what is tedious and does you no credit at all.  In fact it's so tedious and inexorably burbling around in the old ever-decereasing circles zeroing in on your backside, that I’m about to give up on you as a lost cause… but I’ll give you one more chance to redeem yourself.  Well, you know how the saying goes: “Compassion is the vice of kings” and all that. ;D  (It also says ‘stamp down the wretched and the weak', incidentally… >:()

For the umpteenth time, do you equate “Design” in your title with intelligence, and “accident” or “randomness” with what you have referred to as Pure Chance.  While you’re there, explain your title ferchrissakes – what does “the Argument from design” mean?  It sounds pseudo-intellectually trendy, like some pretentious waffly arts programme on the box.  Do you mean “the Argument that the universe was created from Design” – if so, please say so and stop wasting evryone's time & if not, state what you mean.  In one short sentence, preferably.

Depending on how well you do with that simple task, I may later on review my policy as appropriate.

You have been warned!!

Coming from The Last Chance Saloon,
N Joy :-*.


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Hamal
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17/10/2013 12:35 pm  
"Los" wrote:
"Hamal" wrote:
You seem to hold a default position of disbelief without proof to convince you otherwise.

The default position is not to accept a claim until there is sufficient evidence for that claim. "Not accepting a claim" is not automatically an affirmation of the negation of the claim -- it's just a position of not accepting a particular claim.

And therein is the fundamental flaw in your arguments that you seem to refuse to accept. You assess other peoples opinions or ideas or possibilities as claims which you then dismiss on the basis of lack of evidence and default back to a position for which you have a similar lack of evidence. I default to open minded-ness you default to closed-mindedness. I say if there is insufficient proof to prove something one way or the other that whilst I may postulate my default position is "I do not know".

Hence your approach is fundamentally and fatally flawed.

"Los" wrote:

But where this argument grates with others is in that obviously you must have a current set of parameters, and you do and you assert these strongly, you assert these are fact. But in reality your facts are just parameters, no more or less subject to proof than anyone else's theories.

I'm not so sure I agree with you there. That there is insufficient evidence for the existence of leprechauns (or intrinsic meaning, et cetera) isn't "no more or less subject to proof than anyone else's theories." This remains the case even if I assert my point a bit more forcefully or in more practical, straightforward language.

You have absolutely no evidence for the existence or non-existence of leprechauns. At most you can say you have never seen one and that in your opinion, based on your experience, you suspect they don't exist. You cannot however take the lack of evidence for their existence and evidence in favour of your theory that they do not exist, to do so is to pervert the facts or lack of facts to suit your own purposes.

"Los" wrote:
Take, to use another common example, claims about Bigfoot. The default position is not to accept claims about Bigfoot until there is sufficient evidence for them. People who theorize that Bigfoot exists have not sufficiently supported their case, so I contend that the rational position is not to accept the claim that Bigfoot exists. It's not the case that my position is "no more or less subject to proof than anyone else's theories," as if it were just as likely that Bigfoot exists as not. My position -- that is, remaining in the default position of not believing the claim -- is the one justified by the evidence as it currently stands.

I refer the right honourable gentleman to my previous answer about the leprechauns!

"Los" wrote:

Im not saying I believe nor disbelieve in it, I do no know

Knowledge is a subset of belief ("justified belief" or "true belief"). We believe claims (accept that they are likely to be true) based on evidence. When the evidence is especially strong, we are willing to label strongly-supported beliefs "knowledge."

When the evidence is weak, insufficient, inconclusive, or non-existent, the rational position is not to accept the claim.

Poppycock!

93
Hamal


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Michael Staley
(@michael-staley)
MANIO - it's all in the egg
Joined: 16 years ago
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17/10/2013 1:31 pm  
"Los" wrote:
"MichaelStaley" wrote:
"Los" wrote:
. . . one decides by discerning one's authentic inclinations in a situation . . .

And how does one ascertain whether the inclinations so discerned are "authentic" or otherwise?

Excellent question. We might turn to Crowley's writings to see that he advocated methods for "destroying 'evil,'" as he puts it in Reguli: that is, getting the aspirant to perceive as accurately as possible, free from the distorting influences of the mind that cloud perception with the idea that one thing is "good" and another thing is "evil."

As one begins to identify and ameliorate the influences of these distorting influences of the mind, one begins to act more and more in line with the authentic inclinations.

Thanks for your reply. In this particular instance, I'm not  interested in Crowley's views, but rather your own views and methodology.

Would it be accurate to say that in your view what's needed to discover True Will is to cease discimination between what's considered "good" and what's considered "evil"? To borrow from Nietzsche, that True Will is simply that which is beyond good and evil?

Where does "Skeptical Thelema" come into all this?


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William Thirteen
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17/10/2013 2:18 pm  

While you’re there, explain your title ferchrissakes – what does “the Argument from design” mean?  It sounds pseudo-intellectually trendy, like some pretentious waffly arts programme on the box.

the term "The Argument from Design" is a specific, philosophical term describing a particular argument for the existence of God. Often associated with 18th Century Christian apologist William Paley (note: why are they always apologizing?) it was already in use by earlier philosophers & theologists.

http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Argument_from_design

http://www.princeton.edu/~grosen/puc/phi203/design.html


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jamie barter
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17/10/2013 3:08 pm  
"WilliamThirteen" wrote:

While you’re there, explain your title ferchrissakes – what does “the Argument from design” mean?  It sounds pseudo-intellectually trendy, like some pretentious waffly arts programme on the box.

The term "The Argument from Design" is a specific, philosophical term describing a particular argument for the existence of God. Often associated with 18th Century Christian apologist William Paley (note: why are they always apologizing?) it was already in use by earlier philosophers & theologists.

Thank you, William Thirteen, for supplying that detail: amazingly enough I wasn’t previously aware of that fact – in conscious recall, anyway.  But it does clarify matters somewhat.

So Come back, Los, everything is forgiven!!  Not quite, alas: there are still plenty of other unanswered aspects.  Say, where are your cronies Erwin and MoogPlayer when you need 'em?  Looks like your arguments could do with some back-up…?!

N Joy


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