Talk:Argument from inconsistent revelations

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Votes for Deletion[edit]

  • Argument_against_any_specific_God - Although I am an atheist myself, an article with this title cannot exist without being POV. Atheist rant. Mrdice 09:21, 2004 Feb 23 (UTC)
    • POV Atheist rant. Delete. Optim 09:35, 23 Feb 2004 (UTC)
    • Delete rant -- Graham :) 11:14, 23 Feb 2004 (UTC)
    • Delete. Take any relevant information and paste on Atheism or Agnosticism if possible. Oberiko 12:50, 23 Feb 2004 (UTC)
    • Delete. Original research. Anthony DiPierro 14:28, 23 Feb 2004 (UTC)
    • Delete. Original...er....research. DJ Clayworth 14:40, 23 Feb 2004 (UTC)
    • Delete. POV rant. Seth Mahoney 19:41, 23 Feb 2004 (UTC)
    • Move to Argument from inconsistent revelations, fix, and keep. We have pages for each of several Arguments for the existence of God, and a page on Arguments against the existence of God as well. This article needs help to be sure, but it contains the gist of that argument. -- Smerdis of Tlön 20:06, 23 Feb 2004 (UTC)
    • Smerdis/Ihcoyc is right -- keep. It definitely needs an overhaul, but I can envision this article outlaying the argument (and responses of course) in NPOV fashion. Jwrosenzweig 20:39, 23 Feb 2004 (UTC)
    • Delete, Smerdis is wrong, Argument from inconsistent revelations is original "research" (more like poorly thought out musings), and, incidentilly, is pure bunk ;) If you would like to change the policy on original research go talk to Jimbo. Sam Spade 20:56, 23 Feb 2004 (UTC)
      • Keep. I don't see how this counts as original research. There is no actual research in it. Secretlondon 22:48, Feb 23, 2004 (UTC)
    • Fix, but if not fixed, delete. Definitely not NPOV (and i say this as a militant athiest). Morwen 23:00, Feb 23, 2004 (UTC)
    • Delete. Everyking 23:50, 23 Feb 2004 (UTC)
    • Delete but if not fixed AY 05:25, 24 Feb 2004 (UTC)
    • Keep. Can be made suitably NPOV. WP has Anselm's ontological argument, it can have the counter-arguments as well. Wile E. Heresiarch 14:39, 24 Feb 2004 (UTC)
      • This has nothing to do with Anselm's argument, which is appropriate for inclusion in WP for historical reasons. Were it established that this argument was a rebuttal to Anselm's by some prominent philosopher or something similar, it might be appropriate for inclusion with sufficient NPOVing, but this isn't the case. Seth Mahoney 18:23, 24 Feb 2004 (UTC)
        • You're absolutely right, it's irrelevant for me to bring Anselm into this. I still believe the page can be made suitably NPOV. Wile E. Heresiarch 02:56, 25 Feb 2004 (UTC)
          • Its interesting that you're supporting keeping an article here that definately qualifies as original research (as written, it contains no references as to who it originally came from, where it has been used, etc.), yet you support deleting Fractional probability on the grounds that it is original research. Admittedly, this article makes more sense than Fractional probability, but it is still original research. -Seth Mahoney 19:01, 25 Feb 2004 (UTC)
    • The tittle "Argument against any specific God" is not in itself POV! 129.240.69.213 05:56, 26 Feb 2004 (UTC)
  • The question is always the same: is this a report or an essay? A report on how philosophers have treated and are treating such an argument is Wikipedia material. An essay on whether the subject itself is right or wrong is not encyclopedia material. Quite simple. Wetman 20:25, 26 Feb 2004 (UTC)
    • I am not sure I understand this objection well enough to be able to improve the article to respond to it. I have attempted to make this article roughly conformable to the other Arguments for the existence of God and Arguments against the existence of God, setting out the argument and potential responses or objections to it. I don't see how this one advocates a particular position more or less than the other, comparable pages do. Smerdis of Tlön 14:30, 27 Feb 2004 (UTC)
    • Keep with cleaning-up. It's a valid philosophical arguement and historical names have been added to back it up.TimothyPilgrim 14:26, Mar 22, 2004 (UTC)

Discussing the merits of the article itself: is the stuff about prayer really relevant? It seems to be starting a whole new argument, one that doesn't actually rely on conflicting revelations. For example two Christians who both believe exactly the same thing about God could be praying for contradictory things (such as to get the same job). I'm not saying the prayer question isn't an issue, but that it's a different issue. DJ Clayworth 15:20, 27 Feb 2004 (UTC)

That was in the article as originally written. There are in fact two "points" to be made by this line of reasoning. The first, that inconsistent revelations, where you damn yourself according to one faith by accepting another, alter the payoff matrix of Pascal's Wager. The second line of reasoning states that if an all powerful God chooses to reveal a plan of salvation, the revelation should be so unmistakable and convincing that all who consider it know it is from God. The existence of disagreements about which faith to follow, the possibility of contradictory prayers, and similar contradictions in practice suggest that no all powerful god has revealed a true religion to humans. -- Smerdis of Tlön 05:30, 2 Mar 2004 (UTC)

Added an additional point to the argument. I was torn between the bold statement of the argument (which I went with) and a weaselly 'some critics of the argument say'. If anyone can improve on my phraseology please do so. DJ Clayworth 15:27, 27 Feb 2004 (UTC)


In an effort to keep this page extant because I think it is a valuable part of philosophy, I've revised a lot of grammar, punctuation, and cleared up some points. However, I didn't touch the part on prayer and the paragraphs following it. I agree with others in that the article does not benefit from the inclusion of the problem of prayer, that is suitable for a different article, and the following text does not make sense to me. I can't tell what's being referred to, and I didn't want to revise it for fear of changing the intended meaning. Simply put, do the final paragraphs deal with the title article, or the opposition to it? Would the original author please clarify this? Comments? TimothyPilgrim 16:10, Mar 22, 2004 (UTC) Delete the math section atleast. An equation can't determine salvation or the true path to God. That makes no sense. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 68.58.250.209 (talk) 18:58, 17 March 2011 (UTC)

Rebuttal is logically inconsistent[edit]

I removed the section below because it implies that if someone claiming to be a witness to revelation is found to have told a lie, or made an inaccurate prediction then he did not witness the revelation, and that if he is found to have made an accurate prediction then he did witness revelation. I predicted the colts to win the 2007 super bowl, but that doesnt mean my statements about God are true. The fallacy here is an appeal to authority, I believe.

Removed paragraph: Believers have a number of stratagems to counter this argument. It assumes, for example, that none of them make verifiable predictions about what can be found in history or science. The presence of a testable proposition in a revelation may provide a way to assess the credentials of the prophet who claims to speak for a deity; an error about an inter-subjectively demonstrable fact casts doubt on the remaining propositions that cannot be verified. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Tritium6 (talkcontribs) 20:05, 17 April 2007 (UTC).

Logical Problems[edit]

I see two logical problems with this argument. One is that it seems to be saying all revelations can't be true and then implies because of that none should be believed to be true. However isn't this the fallacy of the Excluded middle since its certainly possible that one is true and all the rest false?

Secondly, you could apply the probability argument to atheism or agnosticism as well, since you could argue choosing them is also probably in incorrect choice. I can't be the first to realize these things so is there any sources that make these cases that could be included in the article as it needs a balance in my opinion?67.161.205.170 (talk) 09:06, 17 April 2009 (UTC)

Regarding the first, it can for example be seen as a counter-argument to Pascal's wager. Secondly, agnosticism is probably the correct choice since it requires the least assumptions given what evidence we have.Ht686rg90 (talk) 10:45, 17 April 2009 (UTC)
I think this argument is intended to point out that arguments and revelations on their own are not sufficient to prove that any given God exists without corroborative evidence to back them up- if different people have "revelations" for different Gods, then revelations aren't enough to prove that one God exists. As for the excluded middle, what this argument is saying is that if a given argument for the existence for God works for multiple religions, while it may be possible that one possiblity is right and the others wrong, it could also mean that the argument is flawed. This argument is more of a universal counterargument to existing arguments for God's existence. For the second point- atheism and agnosticism rely on different arguments, and all of these point to just atheism- arguments against the existence of God argue against the existence of all Gods equally and point to none of them existing- so inconsistent revelations isn't a counterargument which applies to them.

But, as this is supposed to be about improving the article- I don't know of any major sources which have voiced these objections. I'm an atheist, and while I reckon a counterarguments section would be good, I'm yet to find any major figures who've specifically attacked this argument. When I next get a chance, I might have a look (but that could be a while). In the meantime, you could probably Google the argument and search through the first few pages- you'd be surprised what it can turn up.122.106.160.244 (talk) 12:45, 18 April 2009 (UTC)

Yes, it would be great, 122, if such sources could be found, but this is September and all the above words were written last April. What does this say about the argument? It looks to me as if 67 above is correct. This isn't really an argument against the existence of God, because God can be taken out of the picture altogether. Atheism, while not a "religion" per se, still requires "faith" due to the solid gold fact that it is just as unlikely that "hard evidence" can be found that God does not exist as it is that such evidence can be found that God does exist. So from the probability point of view as shown mathematically in this article, the chance of an atheist being correct and that all of those "belief in God" faiths are incorrect is essentially 1/(n+1). The "1" in "n+1" represents the "faith" required by atheism, the faith that there is no God.

This equation, by the way, also represents the chances of all the "belief in God" faiths as well, because from the standpoint of probability, all those believers in God might be wrong, and atheists could be correct. So basically we are back to 1/n, where n is equal to all the inconsistent faiths including atheism. Just so it's not as confusing, we can say that d = n+1; this yields an atheism-inclusive probability of 1/d that any one faith, including atheism, is correct.

Now, if this "argument from inconsistent revelations" is, in fact, "an argument against the existence of God", and atheists recognize it as such, then either atheists are right about this OR... atheists are wrong and the argument is faulty and incorrect. An atheist must ask her/himself why is it logical not to include atheism in this probability argument? It is not logical because there is always the >99% probability that at least one of those "belief in God" faiths is correct. So at one and the same time, if this argument from inconsistent revelations were correct, then an atheist has both a 50-50, 1/2 probability of being correct that God doesn't exist and a >99% chance of going to the hell of one of those "hundreds of religions in existence". Only one of these conditions can be correct, i.e., an atheist either has a 1/2 chance of going to hell or a d/1 chance of going to hell. Thus, the argument from inconsistent revelations appears to be defeated.
So rather than being "an argument against the existence of God", this argument from inconsistent revelations, which, if correct, must include the absence of revelation, as in atheism (for zero revelations is inconsistent with all the other revelations), this is an argument that falls into the category of "faulty logic". This may explain why no reliable sources can be found. There may be a >99% probability that notable people who look at this article think it's a waste of their time to bother with it.
 —  .`^) Paine Ellsworthdiss`cuss (^`.  05:09, 9 September 2009 (UTC)
Either there is a god (religion of all types) or there isn't (atheism), therefore an atheist has a 1 in 2 chance of being right. However, if there is a god there is then the question of WHICH one. Therefore any believer has a 1 in 2n chance of being right, where n = the number of contradictory gods and the coefficient 2 represents the halving of the total from separating out atheism. That is, if there are 50 different possible gods a believer has only a 1 percent chance of picking correctly. Khajidha (talk) 17:06, 14 January 2010 (UTC)

I'm REALLY late to this party (the original comment starting this discussion was back in 2007), but I just wanted to point out that whether the arguments themselves are flawed, the purpose of the article is simply to document the argument and its basis. I certainly agree that there are logical fallacies in these arguments, and further that logic and faith are frequently mutually exclusive. But regardless of the validity of the argument or the logical sets that are incorrectly included or excluded, I think this article does a good job of explaining the argument as a whole, and how it is often applied to the topic of atheism. Keep in mind as well that it is one of several major arguments against the existence of God, and those other arguments address the issue from other standpoints. — KieferSkunk (talk) — 19:46, 16 May 2011 (UTC)

"Either there is a god (religion of all types) or there isn't (atheism), therefore an atheist has a 1 in 2 chance of being right." Wrong. Hinduism, Shintoism and as far as I know all folk religions are polytheist so either there are gods, there is a god or there are no gods at all. To say that there are 2 possibilities so one is as likely as the other might be sound mathematically but the mechanics of theology or philosophy are different. Say I play along with the mathematical approach; as I've demonstrated there are 3 possiblities and not 2 so an atheist has a 1/3 chance of being right...and therefore a 2/3 chance of being wrong. "That is, if there are 50 different possible gods a believer has only a 1 percent chance of picking correctly." Dead wrong again and this time mathematically unsound. There are far more gods than religions; as I've pointed out already there are polytheistic faiths; take Shintoism where there is a god in everything; if Shintoism is false then there are a limited number of gods and since Amaterasu is a goddess in Shintoism only then if Shintoism is false then Amaterasu and all of the other deities exclusive to Shintoism don't exist. In other words there isn't an equal chance of God, Amaterasu and Fujin existing. If Shintoism is false then neither Amaterasu nor Fujin exist as they are only gods in the Shinto religion while God is unaffected as he is the deity of the Abrahamic faiths. 86.42.121.148 (talk) 22:37, 15 June 2014 (UTC)

Errors in layout of article[edit]

Could someone please tidy up the first paragraph, as the first word is above the entire paragraph. Thankyou. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 78.33.99.227 (talk) 08:37, 7 September 2010 (UTC)

hokus systematic description section[edit]

I think the "systematic description" section should be removed. It doesn't cite any sources, it's mathematically dodgy, and it has only given fruit to silly disputes above ("logical problems" thread).

It's dodgy in light of modern probability theory because it inappropriately gives equal prior plausibility to every model in any arbitrary set (say: catholicism, hard atheism, anglicism, islam, flying spaghetti monster) thereby leading to nonsense conclusions (e.g. hard-atheism is precisely three times less probable to be true than the abrahamic deity).

The fact is, it's a complete misinterpretation. The argument is not supposed to be direct support for hard atheism. Instead it is supposed to refute a large class of arguments supporting religion. By nullify all those, this argument constitutes indirect support for soft-atheism (and agnosticism). No more, no less.

(Its consequence for the debate is that it purports to reduce the theist to only using arguments that do not favour her own particular beliefs anyway - except ones based on any rare points where her religion is obviously unique from the set of all conceivable beliefs.) Cesiumfrog (talk) 09:14, 10 June 2011 (UTC)

I agree that trying to explain this argument in mathematical terms both dodges and dilutes the real issue being argued. But there is some merit to doing so - it may be difficult to get the general idea of the argument without seeing it in some reasonably concrete terms. I don't think I know enough about this topic to know if the formula, which basically says "They can't ALL be right", is even close to the real argument or not, but that's always been my impression of it: Since each religion was created by its people and is purely a matter of belief, each religion believes it is the CORRECT one, and someone from the outside with no other evidence would have to look at all of the available religions and decide which one was correct, if any, it's logical to conclude that in fact NONE of them are likely to be correct (there's an increasingly small chance of any one of them being the correct one, as the number of faiths increases). That sort of logical argument is possible to express mathematically, but of course reducing it to that eliminates a lot of the nuances that would likely affect one's choice of belief (whether to believe, what to believe, etc.). — KieferSkunk (talk) — 20:31, 10 June 2011 (UTC)
I agree that the "systematic description" should be either deleted or seriously edited by someone with a solid handle on the argument. The argument presented in the "systematic description" is not systematic, and it begins with the phrase "in mathematical terms" and the proceeds to use non-mathematical descriptions in its non-systematic exposition of the argument. If the consensus is that the description section should be deleted, then I support deleting the entire article. If the article can be substantially rewritten it may be worth saving since there is indeed some professional literature on this problem. 76.119.208.81 (talk) 22:23, 26 June 2011 (UTC)

Systematic description section- edits made[edit]

I have removed "in mathematical terms" from the opening to this section because:

  • Most of the terms used in the section are not mathematical.
  • It is not normal protocol to identify what language one is using at the outset of each use of that language.

I have rephrased "faiths" to "interpretations of that God" to improve the neutrality of the article and because any systematic presentation of an argument should use as few different major terms as possible; it is easier to see the flow of the argument if the word "god" appears in each step.

I have removed its statement that "each of these faiths has a corresponding Hell" because:

  • This is a factually incorrect statement.
  • This is a non-neutral interpretation of contested concepts in the major religions probably intended to be the referents of this section.
  • Hell does not appear elsewhere in the argument and so this premise seems to have no bearing on the conclusion or on any other premise.

I have changed "in practice" to "since" because "in practice" means "within the context of real-world activity," not "in the real world" and "since" is the more succinct statement of this intended rule. I have also removed language about picking religions "at random" and clarified the sentence to more clearly state that the point of the argument is that, a priori, religions appear on their face to contradict, but not that the choice between religions is a pure crapshoot, but rather that the argument as currently formulated proceeds from a priori terms without considering any other claims.

I also strongly recommend that someone with access to professional sources add how this argument is I believe intended, as a negative reflection on God's goodness to allow religions about him to proliferate so rapidly and so inconsistently. 76.119.208.81 (talk) 22:40, 26 June 2011 (UTC)

I'm sure you have made the section better than it was before. Unfortunately, it still looks like original research. Can you provide any reputable external reference for presenting the argument in that way?
Just to pick one example of why the improved argument is still wrong, why would anyone assign equal prior probability to every deity hypothesis? (For example, if a more reasoned person were to assign each a numerical probability, mightn't they instead base it on say proportion of proponents?)
Or to be technical, the completion of your argument should include infinitely many hypotheses (since the fact that some have no believers nor even proposers needn't disqualify them from consideration) but a uniform distribution over an infinite set is an invalid prior.
Casting the argument in your "systematic" form tends to lead the reader to conclude that the Abrahamic deity exists, more likely than not, since some variation is included in such a large proportion of the "hundreds of religions in existence" presently. This is the opposite of the desired conclusion. Instead, the point is supposed to be: "religionist A's arguments are invalid, because religionist B uses the same arguments for an incompatible hypothesis. This does not say anything about whether deities exist, but does prove that the religionists can tell us nothing either way." The problem is that it sounds like you are trying to use it to say something about whether deities exist, and not just about whether religionists are qualified to inform us of the personal characteristics if they do.
By the way, could you clarify what you meant in the last sentence (mentioning "negative reflection on God's goodness" and proliferation?) Cesiumfrog (talk) 00:15, 27 June 2011 (UTC)
I think he means that part of the argument is essentially, "If a God really does exist, why are there so many different religions that have different gods, different modes of belief, etc.?" An interesting question, but I'm not sure if it falls under this argument or a different one. — KieferSkunk (talk) — 20:15, 27 June 2011 (UTC)
I concur with the above and suggest that Diderot, Denis (1875-77) [1746]. J. Assézar. ed (in French). Pensées philosophiques, LIX, Volume 1. pp. 167 be used as a citation for this argument, wherein Diderot makes the argument to which this article alludes. 98.249.14.80 (talk) 20:18, 2 July 2011 (UTC)

Deism vs. theism in this argument[edit]

Where mentioned, theistic texts that render some version of theism exclusive over all others should cite to passages within those scriptures or major theological works that are apropos to such a point. Similarly, the proposed immunity of deism to this argument should either discuss, link to, or cite a discussion of the problem on this point that deism, henotheism, and polytheism are incompatible with each other but are all compatible with the argument from inconsistent revelation. Thomas Paine discusses but dismisses this point in two or three very brief passages in I think a formally invalid way, and there is some interesting literature in Greek philosophy, especially the latter works of Plato on Socrates, on this point. In short, more citations please! 76.118.32.67 (talk) 12:34, 9 July 2011 (UTC)

Logic error in mathematical description[edit]

There is a glaring logic error in the mathematical description, in that it seems to assume that the correct descriptor must come from the set of descriptors that men know about. But it is entirely possible that 1) the exists a 'God' but 2) no human religion provides a correct descriptor of this entity, and so the presumption of there being a God does not require that this God come from the 1/n set of beliefs held by people, but from the 1/y set of all possible descriptors of a God. DeistCosmos (talk) 17:13, 8 December 2012 (UTC)

Dubious[edit]

Yes the Torah does say not to worship any other gods but as far as I know all of the other gods it names it says are false gods. It certainly says that about Baal and Moloch anyway. 86.42.121.148 (talk) 01:22, 16 June 2014 (UTC)