To matt

So one of the most popular atheists on the planet responded to my email. Maybe you’ve heard of Matt Dillahunty. Regardless, I pitched my We Are The Evidence argument for Christianity. Here’s his response: 

Your argument is flawed at every point,
1. If the Holy Spirit exists, Christianity is true.  
   – You haven’t defined your terms and, when you do, you’ll see that this all leads to a circular argument. You’ll ultimately be saying “IF this particular thing within Christianity is true then Christianity is true…”
2. The Holy Spirit exists
   – There’s no good reason to believe this is true.

You then go on to an ‘argumentum ad populum’ fallacy.
2.5 billion claims does not mean the claim is true. The plural of anecdote isn’t ‘data’. The truth isn’t impacted by the number of people who believe something or the strength of their conviction.

You’ve literally done NOTHING here, but fail to define terms, create an ultimately circular argument based on those incomplete definitions and then add a fallacious appeal to popularity.

This was a monumental waste of my time. Hopefully, you’ll learn something and it won’t be a waste of yours.

Go. Google. Learn fallacies. Learn why appealing to popularity is a fallacy and why fallacies matter.

Meanwhile, you’ll need to make 2.5 billion the magic number or you’ll have to also agree with the 2 billion Muslims out there. Does the extra 500m make Christianity true…and if the demographic ever flips so that there are more Mulsims…are you going to believe that religion?

Seriously. The ONLY way this is worth my time is if you actually learn something and then share it.

– Matt Dillahunty

His first criticism calls my argument circular. That I’m arguing in a circle. If you are alive, you have a mother. Is that valid? If we can prove that the Holy Spirit exists, I think we can conclude that Christianity is true. 

Circular reasoning is often of the form: “A is true because B is true; B is true because A is true.” Circularity can be difficult to detect if it involves a longer chain of propositions.

Does this apply to my argument? If the Holy spirit exists, Christianity is true. The Holy spirit exists, therefore Christianity is true. I don’t think it does. I think the first premise is undeniable. And the conclusion logically follows the premises. 

The Holy spirit exists. A
Christianity is true. B

B is true because A is true. But A is true because of the witnesses. We are not saying that the Holy Spirit exists because Christianity is true. We are saying that the Holy Spirit exists because we have 2.5 billion witnesses of it. Each witness is a claim that the Holy Spirit exists. And claims are evidence. And consistent claims are good evidence. 

His second criticism is that I commit the appeal to the people fallacy.

According to Wikipedia, this fallacy is In argumentation theory, an argumentum ad populum is a fallacious argument that concludes that a proposition must be true because many or most people believe it, often concisely encapsulated as: “If many believe so, it is so”.

On the surface, he’s right. Essentially I say that 2.5 billion people believe in something, it may be true. But it’s not that simple. We’re not saying that this group of people believe that God exists, or even that Christianity is true. We’re saying that each person is a witness to the Holy Spirit. Each claim is a witness to the same supernatural entity. 

What about Islam? There are 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide. Would this not apply in the same way as Matt suggested in his email? First off, the Quran affirms the Gospel of Jesus. Secondly, the God of Islam is not a personal God. The Holy Spirit mentioned in the Quran is not something poured out to all believers. So 1.8 billion Muslims are simply 1.8 billion people who believe Islam is true. They are not all claiming to have experiences with the supernatural. But let’s say they were, that would be 1.8 billion more reasons to believe that naturalism fails, and atheism is false. 

Want and Fear

What I think is strange is the relationship between want and fear. A fear is a realized negative future reality. A want is very similar. It’s realizing a positive future reality, and preferring it to your current reality. In both instances, the current reality is corrupted because of thoughts outside of it. The fear may or may not ever happen. The want may or may not ever come to fruition.

For me, once the want or fear is identified, I can pray it away. And once it is gone, I can work to be fully present. Otherwise, my mind sits on the want or the fear until the want is filled or fear is overcome. The problem, though, is that all fears cannot be overcome. All desires cannot be filled. So I am either left wanting or fearing.

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So wants and fears are the same in that they both involve us looking forward to something that corrupts our current reality. Either by focusing on something negative that may happen, or something positive that may not happen. It’s only when we can overcome our wants and fears that we can focus on what is and start to be fully present. And the fully-present self is the best self.



Counterfactuals and the Principle of Explosion

A counterfactual is a fact that follows a false hypothetical. For instance, if I never was born, I would never have owned a truck. The argument follows, but is based on a false premise.

It’s how we can think what-if about the past. I can think what if I hadn’t done that, then this would’ve never happened. It’s not a fruitful line of thought. And brings us no closer to the truth. It’s the definition of regret.

There’s the bright side of it though: if this world is preferable to the counterfactual, the thought becomes positive.

A child from my wife’s hometown was killed by accident, and one of the siblings thought I should’ve been home. If I was home, it wouldn’t have happened. As before, this could very well be true, just not in our universe. So it’s a practically meaningless thought. Certainly not one helpful for the grieving process.

I think it’s also a great way to be unhappy. Instead of accepting what’s happened, we try to change it by imagining different impossible hypotheticals. 

The principle of explosion  is that  “from falsehood, anything follows.” This is known as deductive explosion.The proof of this principle was first given by 12th century French philosopher William of Soissons.

As a demonstration of the principle, consider two contradictory statements – “All lemons are yellow” and “Not all lemons are yellow”, and suppose that both are true. If that is the case, anything can be proven, e.g., the assertion that “unicorns exist”, by using the following argument:

1. All lemons are yellow.
2. All lemons are yellow OR unicorns exist.
3. Not all lemons are yellow, therefore unicorns exist. [Source]

In the spiritual world that we live in, I think this may be one of Satan’s greatest tactics. For example, if we remain undecided about an important past event, anything follows. In the above example, it cannot possibly be true that the sibling could have prevented the death. That world simply does not exist. So entertaining the thought creates a reality where anything is possible. And in this case, that is not a good thing. 

The Karate Kid Phenomenon

I recently saw a portion of the Karate Kid on TV, and I couldn’t help but think: I don’t remember all of these people being so young. Last time I saw this, I looked up to the main character. Now he seems like a child. 

Obviously, it has probably been at least a decade since I’ve seen the movie. But what phenomenon is this? Why would I perceive characters so differently? How could my age factor into my perception of others? 

Subconsciously, we must know our age relative to those we see. Because while we change, college kids stay the same age. What changes is us, and the people that are in college, but the age of the people in college stays the same. Therefore the change is not them, it’s us. In our perception of ourselves.

Perhaps, we always compare others to ourselves. Looking for those subtle and not-so-subtle signs of aging. And as we age, we see less of those signs in those younger than us. So as we accept the slow progression of these negative attributes of our own beauty, we cannot help but notice the lack of these attributes in those younger than us. As we accept those as part of our reality, we notice that these attributes are not part of those realities of those younger than us.

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A simplified sketch of comparing flaws. Normalization is the adaptation. And the numbers at the bottom are the perceived difference in age.

Our perception of ourselves is the zero point. Every time we look in the mirror, we are different. We change slowly over the course of our lives. We age. And we adapt to each new perception of ourselves.

You’ve heard the story of the frog being boiled alive. By slowly increasing the temperature, the frog never notices the change.  I think this story closely parallels this psychological mechanism. We are not aware of the change in us, because our aging is the combination of many small changes over a long period of time.

Today is

Tomorrow isn’t.

The more I think about it, that is the biggest lie that people seem to live by. That the fact that all of the days of their existence somehow promises them another day. This long game of flappy bird was always going to end.

By somehow postponing the questions about our mortality, we our always shocked by death. Instead of being grateful for the number of moments that we’ve strung together above ground, we seem to think that there is some sort of promise to live to old age. We count backwards from seventy or sixty, instead of forward from zero.

We can’t be thankful for today if we expect tomorrow. If we put stock in things that don’t exist, there is always the possibility of being wrong. And tomorrow does not exist by necessity. Not for me. Not for you. Not for the universe.

Choose Your Induction

Read the comfort zone first.

My wife and I just finished watching The Pharmacist on Netflix, which I highly recommend. It got me thinking about addiction. With comfort in mind, what is the difference between drug use and exercise?

If our comfort is a subjective experience, which we know it is, what does exercise do to it? Essentially exercise is pain. To exercise with any sort of effort causes pain. So if you compare the time you are exercising to the time you are not exercising, the time you are not exercising is more pleasurable.

In the same way, if you are on opiates, your experience is changed. Compared to your high, everything is more painful off drugs. So the baseline human experience when compared to drug impairment is pain.

So you see, these two devices could work in reverse ways. One induces pain to make the rest of the day more pleasurable. And the other induces pleasure to make the rest of the day more painful.

So what will you induce, pleasure or pain?

Ending the Comfort Zone

We all have a comfort zone.  There are certain things that we prefer. And other things that we prefer not to do. And some things we’ve never done.

Things inside the comfort zone are obviously comfortable. And anything outside the comfort zone is uncomfortable-except for the unknown. This is obviously a relative thing, some things can be more comfortable than others, and more uncomfortable than others.

Inside the comfort zone, we can still have two things, one more comfortable than the other. So if we choose more and more comfortable things, you can see pretty easily how the comfort zone can become smaller and smaller.

But you see, if comfort and discomfort are relative values on the same scale, we are only talking about values in a single space. Essentially, a pleasure metric. As we try new things, they find their place on our scale.

And the more pleasurable something is, the less reason we need to do it. The more uncomfortable something is, the more reason we need to do it.

There is another category: the unknown. Of course the unknown could be comfortable or uncomfortable in itself. Then after the unknown is known it becomes either comfortable or uncomfortable.

But what if we no longer value the comfort in things? Then reason is all that is left. Of course, comfort in itself is a reason, but a subjective one. We are no longer ranking what is most comfortable, but what we think is the right thing.

And the unknown is no longer comfortable or uncomfortable. It too, is only right or wrong. So that if we believe that something unknown is the right thing, it doesn’t matter how uncomfortable we think that it may be.

So our map of pleasure fades, because it no longer matters. What matters is right and wrong. That’s all that’s left. 

Finding Gratitude

To find gratitude, I think it’s helpful to imagine things not existing. Instead of saying that I don’t like these qualities about my house or my wife or my life, why not instead imagine those things not existing at all. So instead of comparing those things to my ideal versions of them, I compare them to nothing. And when I compare my life to nothing, I have everything.

While hate is comparing two things and preferring the absence, love is preferring the presence.

I hate qualities about my life and myself and my wife, but I also love my life and myself and my wife. I wouldn’t prefer a lack of life over life or an absence of my wife over my wife. 

This realization that I prefer things over their absence is appreciation. To look at the qualities that they have instead of the qualities that they don’t have. To be thankful for what is, and not mad about what isn’t. 

With this in mind, I can be grateful for both the time with my family and away from my family. 

This got really interesting when I started thinking about the afterlife. Because if I die I would lack all the people that are currently a part of my life. So while I can be grateful for what was. And they may be grateful for me.

Regardless of the afterlife, they will lack me. But in the case of the afterlife, I would lack them as well.

We all may lack someone in the next life, for reasons I’ve discussed before. But I think that void is filled with gratitude and not regret. Unless, that is, we lack the one person that we shouldn’t lack.

Animals Don’t Kill Themselves

Animals do not commit suicide. This is generally accepted as true, although there are a handful of examples of it. I’m not trying to prove the exceptions. Only the rules.

They are not capable of abstract reason. This is a very vague concept. The truth is that we simply don’t know how to describe why we are smarter than them.

So why is it that the one species that can reason is the only species that takes their own lives? To me, it could be the case that reason itself is the cause of suicide. Bad reason or perhaps good reason is all that could lead us to take our own lives.

There are two reasons to kill yourself:
I would be better without life.
Or the world would be better without me.

If animals cannot change their minds, there is no way to change their reason. To rewrite their logic, or get to either of these conclusions. That’s not to say that they don’t suffer.

If. That may be the only reason. What if animals simply do not understand the concept of if? They have a full sensory experience, but simply cannot make deductions. No thought experiments.

So instead of thinking: if I do this, I will no longer suffer. The ‘if’ here introduces a premise. It creates an alternate world that may or may not be true, based on the viability of the premise.

Life just is. You just are. I just am. If I was to give up the word ‘if’, I must accept my current situation. There are no hypotheticals to explore, only what is. And what is, is. There is no way to explore the new possibility of suicide, because there is no way of exploring new trains of thought at all.

But we can train animals to behave certain ways. We can condition a dog to sit for a treat because he knows that if he sits he will get a treat. Typically though, you will still have to show the dog the treat.  The dog has to know that sitting means treat. Which implies some knowledge of causality.

This seems to undermine the premise, that a world without ‘if’ explains animals lack of reason. But in this example, the premise is clearly true. If you are holding a bone and telling your dog to sit, he assumes [probably correctly] that if he sits you will give them to him.

So training may only mean teaching causality. If you can show your dog that he will get a bone if he sits, he will likely start sitting more often.

If the concept of a premise is not an option, there is no way of imagining a world without you in it. Because all you have known is a world with you. How can you imagine a world without you? It’s like sitting for a bone without any training. So there is no reason to think that you will be given a bone.

If all you can accept are true premises, is it possible to kill yourself?

If I wasn’t alive, I would be better.
If I wasn’t alive, the world would be better.

Do they understand the concept of better at all? Do you need a premise to conclude better? You cannot compare futures without the concept of ‘if’. And if you can’t compare futures, you can’t compare the world with you to the world without you.

And if you can’t compare the world with and without you, you can’t conclude that it would be better without you. And if you can’t conclude that suicide is the right decision, it is not possible.

The takeaway here is that the main difference between man and animal is reason and suicide. And I think those both may boil down to a single word.



Déjà vu: The Divine Breadcrumb

The thought is, I’ve been here before. It’s like you are living in a memory. To say I dreamed it, says nothing about how the future entered your mind.

For this to be valid, one must accept the truth of déjà vu: that our prior memory of a present event is just that.

No one has access to the future. The future does not exist right now.

If the human mind was isolated to spacetime, with no connection to other realities outside of spacetime, there is no reason to believe an imagined déjà vu event would happen.

If there is another realm, outside spacetime, where the mind lives, could we have access to things that haven’t yet happened?

If God exists, he is timeless, and has existence outside of spacetime. So his omniscience would include knowledge of the future.

For déjà vu to be possible, the mind must either have direct access to the future or access to something that has access to the future.

Do we have direct access to the future? No. So we have access to a being, who has access to the future. Either way,

Truth exists outside of spacetime. 

Why, because there are any infinite number of variables that go into making the déjà vu event happen. Think of the butterfly effect. If any part of the event was different, it wouldn’t seem like a memory. So the only way that this could be true is if there is a reality outside of spacetime. And a being with access to it.
To exist outside of spacetime with access to truth that is in it, the being must be omniscient. God is omniscient.

But also, this is not just access to the truth. This is access to my truth. So that this being has access to my mind. Therefore, this being is personal.

From déjà vu, I think we can reasonably conclude that a personal God exists outside of spacetime who is omniscient and personal.