Friday, May 4, 2012

Bayesian thought, the End of Christainity

I'm currently reading The End of Christainity and was hoping Richard Carrier's chapter on Neither Life nor the Universe seem Intelligently Designed would be better, it's a great chapter mind you, and certainly worth it the price of the book in and of itself.

But, more and more I find myself thinking in a Bayesian sense. It's worthwhile to ask yourself whether you can go from hypothesis A to conclusion c cleanly. Does ~A get there cleanly? And what do we observe. Even for seemingly basic premises and thought that haven't so much as occurred to me ever such thoughts illuminate arguments I've never heard or thought about.

Why can't people in heaven or hell communicate with Earth? I mean you can't really get from the premise "there is an afterlife" to the conclusion therefore that afterlife will be completely barred from communicating with the living. But, necessarily that's a requirement if there is no afterlife. While one could conclude that there are a myriad of afterlives that could have that restriction, it's not what we should expect of Christianity. Why not allow the living to occasion to hear the screams of torment of the damned. Or of the blessings of heaven? Why allow a child to lose their faith when their mother dies and goes to heaven? Why not allow the mother a couple quick words to save their child's eternal soul? It seems as though this restriction would be both counter productive and arbitrary. But, if there were no afterlife, it simply would be the obvious result. There is no undiscovered country, there is only death.

Or how can you cleanly go from the premise, there was a historical Jesus to there will be no evidence for a historical Jesus. You can very cleanly go from "there was no historical Jesus" to there will be no evidence for a historical Jesus. It's not about proof but that, on balance, the premise "there was no historical Jesus" would be stronger. And while the question could be reversed rather suddenly by a well placed piece of paper, it can't be the case that the evidence for a historical Jesus outweighs the opposite claim if every prediction of the opposite claim that must be true actually seems to be true.

How does one get from God exists, to therefore God should become a demigod and sacrifice himself to himself to appease God's human-anger emotions towards innocent people for the crimes of their ancestors. Well, I don't see an easy way to get there. But, on the premise that there is no God, I should expect to find religions everywhere that are simply the product of the cultures they were invented in, and in a culture that is obsessed with primitive blood magic, atonement of sin, appeasement of gods, punishing innocence to allow the guilty to go free, god's emotions, etc. Such cultures we know actually existed, and which did have strong and rather new pagan influences from Rome, we should almost expect Christianity. In fact, if you mix Jewish thought of the Messiah with Pagan love of demigods and the wacky adventures thereof, we should almost perfectly predict Christianity to arise from that very culture. And we should see gods all over the world, the product of their own cultures. And this seems to be exactly what we do see. But to actually assemble a universe based on the oxygen carrying cells of some terrestrial animals on this tiny speck of dust in a universe of 70,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars, seems a little freakish. The actual universe actually hinges on blood magic being true? That's not something I could really get from "God exists". However, I could conclude that from God doesn't exist. Because then if people are inclined to invent gods, and we generally should accept that they are, then they would invent gods that humans would invent. With human emotions and stray bits of human culture. Much like we see with Yahwah and Jesus. One could offer perhaps that that culture existing is unlikely. But, that's a sharpshooter fallacy. For if we have Viking culture, we end up with heaven being a pub in the sky where the best heaven is for those who died in valiant battle. Any culture that existed, could well have ended up with their own religion and we could just as easily be discussing that religion, rather than Christianity. The specific form of the culture doesn't matter, just that cultures should exist, and religions which reflect those cultures should arise within those cultures.

How do we get from God exists to God should punish people on the basis of belief. That there are two afterlives which are infinitely good and infinitely bad. How do we get from that premise to that conclusion? I don't rightly know. But, I know how we get there from no God existing. If God doesn't exist then these theological claims are made up by people, and people believe religions not based on truth (as they would all be false) but rather based on Public Relations (PR) and as such, infinite sticks and infinite carrots could do wonders towards propagating a religion, and the better it propagates the more it will propagate. So the religions would be optimized towards propagation and not towards dissemination of the truth. If you don't want infinite suffering believe this. If you want infinite bliss believe this. Teach it to your children, tell it to others, make them also believe. If God exists why doesn't he evangelize people himself? After all, shouldn't God be able to do a better job at it? Why depend on silly human agents? If there were no God, all there are are human agents. Each of these points actually provide rather strong evidence that religion is completely bogus. There a heck of a lot of assumptions we just take for granted that are actually hugely problematic if we think about them correctly. Why should Gandhi burn forever in hell for failing to believe the correct tenants of a religion largely believed in a region he was not from? Why should religions be hugely dependent on region? Why is the message delievered in book form, if books and languages change? How do we get from God exists to God will have human emotions? The list goes on and on. We accept a lot of things without question that we really should question profusely. Why are souls undetectable? If they don't exist, ofcourse they'd be undetectable. But, how do we go from "Souls exist" to "souls should be completely undetectable"? Wouldn't seeing souls leave the bodies of dying people, tell people that they have souls and perhaps they go somewhere and could be saved?  There's a lot of baggage concern religion, and why should the supernatural be undetectable? If I developed Jedi powers, anybody could tell I had them, and even if they didn't I could, with a wave of my hand, convince them that I did have those powers they were looking for. Such things would be supernatural and detectable so why are the only supposed supernatural things completely undetectable. How do we go from "The Supernatural Exists" to "The Supernatural is Undetectable". I do however see quite easily how we go from "The Supernatural Exists" to "The Supernatural is Undetectable". At best, the hypothesis "The supernatural exists" must by this argument be less likely than "The supernatural doesn't exist" because we don't detect it. That alone suffices to make it a better claim.

No comments: