Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Ignosticism Advanced: And on Referential Justification

Over the past 10 years, I’ve developed the concept of ignosticism into a formal demonstration that can either prove or disprove the existence of God.

In a nutshell, ignosticism asks you to describe “God.”

Simple enough, right? It’s not as easy as it sounds.

When a person says they have a belief in God, what is it they mean by "God"?

One might say God is three in one. Another might say none is greater than God.

Both are fine definitions.

The problem arises when competing definitions for the same God negate each other.

Three is not one.

So, what is it we are talking about? How can we talk about a self-negating concept? It’s nonsensical. We can’t speak meaningfully of it.

Hence, the ignostic holds religious people tend to presume too much about God.

The description part is to test the coherence of the object being described. Many theological descriptions of God are sophisticated but incoherent.

So, what is it we are talking about? How can we talk about an incoherent concept? It’s nonsensical. We can’t speak meaningfully of it.

Hence, the ignostic holds religious people must provide a meaningful description of God before the topic of God can carry any real meaning, regardless of the meaning they imbue their concept with before offering a demonstration.

Unable to do this, the term God is rendered meaningless and so irrelevant. 

Most theological demonstrations of God's existence or attributes are logical conceptualizations, but they often fall apart when compared to competing demonstrations which change the description of God.

The key is finding religious templates that are logical and internally coherent.

Once we have these we can test the descriptions against the referent—whether tangible or conceptual. 

A tangible referent would be the physical thing itself, like an apple. A conceptual referent would be something like Democracy or Capitalism. They are concepts, but they work and they function and can be measured and have an observable effect on the societies that adopt them.

Now ignosticism is only designed to determine the immediate relevance of your description. Unable to describe God in any meaningful way undermines one’s belief in God by demonstrating that God isn’t worth discussing because the concept of God (as provided by the person of faith) is meaningless.

I take it one step further by asking one to provide a justification of their description (I call this step a Referential Justification).

There are three parts to this: 

1) Provide a comprehensible description (comprehensible so as to be meaningful) 

2) provide a referential justification—the thing itself or a defeasible concept—for said description (otherwise it gets classified as an unreal conceptualization)

3) determine if your description is accurate by comparing it to the description of an impartial 3rd party (otherwise go back to square one).

Easy enough, right?

You’d be surprised

Referential Justification is designed to help us justify our terms by showing they mean what we think they mean. 

This is part of the area of English theory known as semantics--better known as the study of the meaning of words and how they come to acquire their meanings. 

And this relates in an important way back to epistemology, the study of knowledge and how we know what we know. Because, when you think about the standard phrases the devout typically use when talking about God is it usually something like "I know God exists," and "God is real" the question arises, how do they know?

Saying that "God exists" may be faith-based propositions, sure. But it's also a truth claim. And taking such a belief for granted doesn't prove the belief is true, even if one believes with all their heart they are.

All my advancement of ignosticism seeks to do is justify these claims as true. 

And that would be a big win for the believer!

It provides a powerful tool to justify one's terms so we can understand they are speaking about true and real things, and thereby avoid the ignostic's criticism that a person of faith's God-talk is meaningless.

So it is to the benefit of the believer that they should always apply a Referential Justification to their terminology so as to not run into any semantic problems where the words they are using actually don't describe what they are talking about. Because this is where the underlying confusion lies--if the definition of "God" doesn't mean what they think it means or it means something else entirely, then they cannot presume to know God is real or that God exists, because the term has no inherent meaning and so no value in the discussion.

This, of course, means we're dealing with a higher order of specificity than people are typically accustomed to using when they talk about broad concepts. It means, if we are going to make the specific claim that something is real and that it has certain properties, then we must be expected to show the work. 

Show the relationship between your claim and the description you want others to accept as valid so that we know you're not assuming more than you can possibly know about the thing you are talking about. 

Basically, it's a way to check if someone is haphazardly fabricating their ideas or else actually offering us a real description of something in a way we can talk about meaningfully.

It's not controversial. It's necessary.

A Longish Rant on the Whole Staged Pence Walk Out

I probably should have known better than to get embroiled in a stupid Facebook argument with conservative Trump supporters. Trying to explain to them how Mike Pence as VP, an elected official of the Republic, represents all American citizens and not just conservative Americans was, predictably, all in vain.

It is inconceivable to me that the VP can pull a stunt like this and not get ousted from office. It's a complete overreach of the VP's power, not only because he's using the White House and taxpayer dollars to send a message as Mike Pence the VP (not Mike Pence the citizen), not only is his protest of peaceful protesters a denial of their message and what they're protesting in the first place (if he even is aware of what that is), but his staged Diva walk-out, when we know (for a fact) that he was scheduled to be in a different state that same day anyway and so had no intention of watching the game, is such a slight against American values as to be utterly grotesque.

If you missed why his walk-out was unconscionable it simply is this: As VP he has no right to silence the voice of Americans. He's supposed to represent those Americans, regardless of what his personal position might be with respect to their form of protest. This is intimidation plain and simple. And that's WRONG on every level.

But pointing this out caused me to get blocked by three people, told to shut up by two, and about a dozen others chanted variations on...but...but...but...don't disrespect the flag! Others were sure to mention all Pence did was peacefully walk out--how could I be mad at his peaceful protest of their peaceful protest?

BECAUSE he's the Vice President of the United States! Did you not know this? Are you not aware of the power dynamics at play here? How dense do you have to be not to get it?

If you were wondering how bad it is in's this bad, folks. The VP literally protested the First Amendment act of peacefully protesting by protesting the protesters.

He said something to the effect that he was protesting the manner in which they were protesting, but this is the same difference. Clearly, he hasn't the faintest idea of what the protesters' message is. Probably because like all those who think it's a flag issue miss the point of why the protest is bothering them so much. Hint: It's not a flag issue.

It's not even a respect issue. It has nothing to do with one's level of patriotism. It's a status quo issue.

The protesters are saying that there is a segment of the American population that's not being treated fairly and that until this happens, they are taking a knee. The so-called disrespect is deliberate! It's to get you to wake the fuck up and pay attention to their message--we're not being respected so we offer this reflection of the daily disrespect that we as people of color receive.

And if you think it ain't so, look no further than to our own city streets where Nazis and white supremacists have been marching about with torches. And what do they protest? Their loss of privilege. Not exactly a slight against them as a people. Just an effect of a society becoming more inclusive.

You may feel kneeling before Old Glory is offensive, but have you forgotten the flying of Nazi flags on American soil just weeks earlier? How many of those inbred Nazi-wannabe fucks have you told to get out of America since then? Or have you sheltered them from due criticism and given them safe passage in the marketplace of ideas, claiming they have a right to free speech just like everyone else?

When these same Nazis / White Supremacists took an innocent woman’s life, shot at black people in an open crowd, and spewed racial slurs and bigoted hate at anyone not as white as they--where was your outrage then?

And when people of color say this offends us, so we'll take a knee as a peaceful sign of the slights we've received, of the insults and slights we’ve endured, and you grow outraged, well, I think you might be missing the fucking point.

It was never really was about the flag. It's about fighting a class-war where the opposition’s message isn't at all a peaceful one--but actively calls for the extermination of and continued abuse of people of color.
What a fucking message, eh?

And this brings us back to Mike Pence and his Diva walk-out. Like so many others, he's clearly missed the message. Like the others, he’s crying about his hurt feelings, ignoring the issues behind the protest.

This is a form of Whitewashing minority issues because many white folks, if you haven't guessed, don't believe minorities and people of color are treated differently in America. Not enough to be a problem. It's just the "liberal media," they say. They think it's all made up. And they balk when you talk of police brutality, of unfair incarceration, and of economic disenfranchisement. Racism isn't a problem here, they say--as Nazi's continue to convene in their squares and march in their streets. It's a matter of having pride for the country that's given you so much.

Talk about a HUGE misdirect! And do you know what the best way to get through to these knot-heads is? You guessed taking a knee.

If you really are offended by the protesters' message or their act of taking a knee, I can only offer this advice: GET OVER YOURSELF. It's not about you or your delicate, bleeding heart, snowflake feelings.

Newsflash! You're not that important. Your small slight of having to see someone take a knee pales in comparison to the slight minorities and people of color feel every day at the unfairness that is built into our undeniably racist culture. And the only way to claim the culture isn't as racist as everyone has been telling you it is is to demonstrate to everyone that your country doesn't actually have Nazis and White Supremacists marching in your streets.

No? Well, then. Don't say I didn't tell you so.

Kneeling during the national anthem shouldn't be any kind of grounds to determine a fellow American’s true level of patriotism. It's certainly no grounds to find reason enough to prevent them from exercising their first amendment rights. It's not even grounds to ask them to leave--even if you are incensed.

You don't need to agree with the protesters' message, although I'll certainly question your lack of empathy. You don't need to like it though, that's your right. And you certainly don't need to call them un-American or tell them they should get out of your country. That's jingoism. That’s the same as using the flag as a tissue for your great big patriotic circle jerks. It's disrespectful to your fellow Americans and to your country. It merely seeks to diminish their status as Americans. If they're not patriots, they're FAKE Americans, so what do they matter? Right?

It's far worse when the Vice President does it. I can assure you.

It's disheartening for sure. I've never felt so bad for America in all my life. And by "bad" I mean terribly embarrassed.

What's more, it just goes to show we CANNOT possibly begin to make America great again until we change the QUALITY of Americans in America.

Advocatus Atheist

Advocatus Atheist