Feb 052006
 

Per DonaldM’s suggestion

Most likely we’ve all heard the oft quoted mantra “extraordianry claims require extraordinary evidence.” When it comes to the ID/evolution debate, the question is, what is the ‘extraordinary’ claim? Of the two claims below, which is the extraordinary one and why? What would constitute the ‘extraordinary’ evidence to support it and why?

1. An all powerful supernatural being with both the knowledge and the will purposefully brought all things into existence, including life on planet earth through means that we have not yet discovered, may never discover and do not understand, but did leave behind hallmarks of this intelligent design in the bits of nature we can observe, most notably CSI and IC in certain kinds of natural artifacts.

2. The blind purposeless forces of matter and energy, acting over eons of time through chance and necessity (or their combination) produced all the bits of nature we can observe, including all life on planet earth through the means of random mutation and natural selection.

  34 Responses to “Extraordinary Claims”

  1. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence to overcome the noise. Extraordinary claims are extraordinary because they are expensive to act upon, and because the claims would be made even if untrue.

    For example, people claim to see alien spacecraft and supernatural events every day. Some of these events are unexplained, but many are proven to be fraudulent. That is, hearsay is unreliable. The probability that persons would claim X are essentially independent of the probability that X is true. Therefore, one can only depend upon propositions that are verifiable.

    Go ahead and call both ID and evolution extraordinary. I have no problem with that. Evolution is verifiable/falsifiable because it makes definite predictions (many of which have been verified). ID makes no predictions, so not only is it not a theory, it’s not even an explanation. How can you have an explanation that’s not predictive? A non-predictive theory is just a contentless restatement of the observations, because it predicts whatever you observe, no matter what you observe.

  2. A non-predictive theory is just a contentless restatement of the observations, because it predicts whatever you observe, no matter what you observe.

    Which is precisely the case with evolutionary theory. No matter what turns up, it is what you’d expect if life evolved. Thus we have punk eek, or convergent evolution or exaptation to explain (or perhaps explain away) contrary data. What definite “predictions” does evolutionary theory make that would be the case if and only if life evolved? A good prediction is one that not only rules in a certain causal event, but also rules out competing causal events. Evolutionary predictions, such as they are, really do not do that.

  3. There are predictions here.

    Whether a theory is predictive is a question of whether the probability of seeing what you observe is preferred by your theory or not. That is P(Observation | Theory) should be substantially different from both P(Observation) and 1. NDE does this.

    On the other hand ID makes no predictions at all unless you volunteer something about the designer. Otherwise, there is no reason to expect that P(Observation | Designer) > 0 because an undifferentiated designer could have designed for any possible observation. The designer could have designed any number of forms for any number of purposes, yet we only observe a purposeless world that looks evolved. Unless, of course, you would like to amend generic ID to state precisely why the designer designed the world the way it is observed, and not some other world?

  4. Yes, I know about all the deceptive immoral propaganda that talkorigins put out. There are no scientific predictions there.

  5. Yes, I know about all the deceptive immoral propaganda that talkorigins put out.

    Immoral!!? What does this discussion have to do with morality?

    There are no scientific predictions there.

    You are entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.

  6. Immoral!!? What does this discussion have to do with morality?

    Everything. talkorigins is not really interested in science. It is only interested in promoting an atheistic agenda. Atheism is immoral or at best amoral, which is why talkorigins is engaged in lies and distortions to promote NDE. Sorry talkorigins is not a reliable source for information.

    You are entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.

    What’s a Theory? It is not my opinion. NDE does not qualify as a working scientific theory.

  7. http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CA/CA602.html

    So much for talkorigins’ atheist agenda.

    Besides, theism is no more moral than atheism. I doubt that the followers of Mictlantecuhtli would share the same moral code as you, but they were theists, too. All morality is subjective, whether you’re a theist or not.

  8. So much for talkorigins’ atheist agenda.

    You’ve just proved why talkorigins is not a reliable source for truthful information.
    Why The Deception?
    Atheism’s Trojan Horse
    The Anatomy of Darwinism
    The Anatomy of Darwinism (Part 2)
    The Anatomy of Darwinism (Part 3)

  9. What of the claim that “Evolution is Atheistic”. The first TO response is:

    #1. For a claim that is so obviously false, it gets repeated surprisingly often. Evolution does not require a God, but it does not rule one out either. In that respect, it is no different from almost all other fields of interest. Evolution is no more atheistic than biochemistry, farming, engineering, plumbing, art, law, and so forth.

    A. Darwinists are forever repeating the phrase “ID is Religion masquerading as science” (or something similar) If I may quote, “For a claim that is so obvisoulsy false, it gets repeated suprisingly often.”

    DocLogic:

    Besides, theism is no more moral than atheism. I doubt that the followers of Mictlantecuhtli would share the same moral code as you, but they were theists, too. All morality is subjective, whether you’re a theist or not.

    And if your house is robbed by someone who’s subjective moral value is that there is nothing wrong in stealing, will you still call the police? If I have you to my house for tea and decide that it would be fun (and not wrong in any way) to dump the boiling water on your head for the amusement of seeing what happens, would you not think me evil? On what basis, all things being subjective? Of course, on an atheistic worldview, all morality must be subjective because ultimately all things are the end result of the blind, purposeless forces of matter and energy. But that is most definitely not the case when it comes to theism. Theism is very compatible with the notion of there being objective, knowable moral standards.

    Secondly, is the satement “all morality is subjective, whether you’re a theist or not” itself a statement of absolute truth or only relative truth? If its the former, then what is the source for this truth? And if there is an objective, transcendant source for truth, why can’t there be one for morals? If its the latter, then why should anyone accept it as being true in the first place?

    For someone who calls themself “doctor(logic)” your logic escapes me.

  10. Meanwhile, back to the OP…. Which is the extraordinary claim and why? What constitutes “extrordinary” evidence?

  11. doc-logic:

    Whether a theory is predictive is a question of whether the probability of seeing what you observe is preferred by your theory or not. That is P(Observation | Theory) should be substantially different from both P(Observation) and 1. NDE does this

    How does NDE do this? WHat “prediction” of NDE would be the case if and only if life evoloved?
    I know of no such predictions for evolution. In fact, quite the opposite seems to be the case. Not matter what turns up, its what you’d expect from evolution. First we observe that there seems to be a lot of useless organs in certain creatures (so-called vestigial organs). Well, of course we’d expect that (read: predict) from the messy process of evolution. But later when function is discovered for many of those same organs we’re told “of course…evolution only preserves function.”

    Were told that evolution proceeds slight modification by slight modification, one small step at a time, over eons of time, and that eventually the fossil record will confirm this…another “prediction”, made by Darwin himself. Well, 150 years later we’re still looking for that confirmation. What we find is the opposite, thus Gould and Eldredge come up with punk eek, because, of course, this is what you’d expect from evolution. But then again, we might see the opposite, and that is evolution, too.

    Seems to me evolution can “predict” just about anything! The few paltry examples of evolutionary “predictions” given in the comment on TO you cite above are barely connected to evolutionary theory and could just as easily be the case through common design.

    Using the argument of predictability to claim that ID is the extrordinary claim doesn’t seem to go anywhere much.

  12. DonaldM,

    And if your house is robbed by someone who’s subjective moral value is that there is nothing wrong in stealing, will you still call the police?

    Why do theists have so much difficulty with this issue?

    Yes, I call the police. Presumably, so do you, and so do 90+% of the population. The fact that morality is subjective doesn’t trump any part of our system of justice, nor does it prevent most of us from agreeing to a certain code of morality. The universe doesn’t care if I get robbed, but that’s irrelevant. I care, and I’ll do something about it. Social morality is nothing but social contract.

    Our sense of right and wrong is determined only by our emotional reactions, our culture and by the perceived consequences of our actions. As our society changes, as fear recedes, and we make better use of our empathy, our morality changes. That’s why slavery ended, and why we no longer rape and pillage the way Abraham’s family did. Bronze Age morality is gone now, despite the fact that the Bible seems fine with it.

    Here’s a question: Why does your morality happen to be the one that’s absolutely true, as opposed to, say, my morality? Kinda funny how religions the world over can’t agree on morality.

    Secondly, is the satement “all morality is subjective, whether you’re a theist or not” itself a statement of absolute truth or only relative truth?

    What is your definition of the term absolute truth? Truth is the assertion of a proposition. As Wittgenstein would say, truth is not something floating “out there”. “Truth” is an element of different word games, and it doesn’t have well-defined meaning outside of these games. What is the recipe for testing whether a proposition is absolutely true?

    How does NDE do this? WHat “prediction” of NDE would be the case if and only if life evoloved?

    It’s not necessary for any theory to predict events that are exclusive of all other possible models. In fact it is generally impossible because there are an infinite number of models consistent with any finite set of data. However, a theory does have to make predictions specific enough to strengthen or weaken confidence in the theory. NDE is not itself a theory, but a class of theories that are distinguished by relying on chance, natural selection and the laws of physics. The theories within the NDE class detail the precise mechanisms of evolution. TalkOrigins lists some of these predictions based on specific theories within NDE.

    Just look at genetic differences between species. They line up as expected by evolutionary processes (RM-NS) working through common descent. Without evolution you would not expect to see this. If life popped into existence by magic, we should expect to see Precambrian rabbits and animals built on inorganic technologies. If there’s no connection between animals, why should they be so alike and appear as if there were common descent? Evolution explains not only why there’s common descent, but also why species are so similar. We see genetic differences where evolution expects them.

    ID does not predict common descent, nor does it predict the genomic similarities (and differences) between species. ID predicts nothing at all.

  13. Why do theists have so much difficulty with this issue?

    Actually theists have no difficulty with morality. It is the atheists that have a convoluted worldview on this. ARN links are all messed up, so I will repost an exchange here to demonstrate the inconsistent atheistic worldview.

    Posted by teleologist (Member # 191) on 04-23-2005 04:03 AM04-23-2005 04:03 AM:

    quote:

    Originally posted by RBH:
    I’m curious, teleologist. I’ve been on a volunteer fire department and rescue squad for decades. I’ve risked my life on occasion for people I don’t even know, as have my mates. I’ve laid in an overturned automobile in a pool of blood and gasoline to free a woman from her tangled seat belt after an accident, I’ve dived in a muddy river in zero visibility searching for bodies, I’ve held C-spine on a motorcycle accident victim for nearly two hours on a red lights and siren run to the nearest Trauma Center when the weather was bad enough that the helicopter couldn’t fly, I’ve crawled into burning buildings and once had a ceiling in one come down on me, and on and on.

    That is quite a list of accomplishments. I am impressed. Before I get to your question let me ask you this first. Do you think these actions make you more moral than others who have not acted the same? Do you think that you are an accomplished scientist respected by others that you work with? I am sure you’ve been a good husband, a good father and a pillar in your community. You’ve given yourself to help your fellowman. Be honest, does that make your ego feel good? Don’t you think you are better than the average joe? C’mon you must think you are at least better than the self righteous Jew, the indifferent Buddhist, the passive Karmic Hindu and especially that hypocritical Christian that’s only interested in avoiding hell fire, and getting his greedy little hands on his rewards? Sure you do. You deserve it, because your life have meaning and purpose, not only to yourself but to all those who look up to you.

    I just have one question for you. Do you think that your standard of moral behavior should be the standard for the entire human race? IOW, is your standard the universal objective standard for morality?
    quote:

    Originally posted by RBH:
    From that information, can you infer whether I am a Christian, Jew, Muslim, agnostic, atheist, materialist, philosophical naturalist, undecided, confused? Which category do I fall into from the information given? What is the moral stance that allows me to do that? And why do I, a staunch “Darwinist”, have no problem reconciling my behavior with the theory of evolution and/or with philosophical naturalism? Could it be you don’t know that theory well enough to criticize it on those grounds? Could it be that you’ve constructed a straw man? I think so.

    From the information that you’ve given me I have no idea and it frankly is irrelevant to obtaining a consistent epistemology of a worldview. Before I continue let me just say that you are correct I may not know anything well enough to criticize anything. OTOH, you may think you know everything and may very well do. I am just trying to make do with what I got. So feel free to just brush me off, because I will try to layout what I think is at the heart of the issue.

    The quote that you responded to was from a discussion between KC and I on the futility of atheistic Darwinism to arrive at a objective morality. My point was that you cannot have morality from a random purposeless universe. IOW, from a mindless collection of molecules, you cannot derive an objective (universal) moral value.

    You might think this is just more hypocritical Christian blabbering. Don’t just take my word for it. Consider the words of a staunch atheist like Jean-Paul Sartre. Jean-Paul Sartre, was correct in stating that man required an infinite reference point in order for life to have any meaning. Since Sartre didn’t believe there was such a reference point, he stated, “Man is absurd, but he must grimly act as if he were not” and “Man is a useless passion.”
    quote:

    Jean-Paul Sartre. Rationally the universe is absurd, and you must try to authenticate yourself How? By authenticating yourself by an act of will. So if you are driving along the street and see someone in the pouring rain, you stop your car, pick him up and give him a lift. It is absurd. What does it matter? He is nothing, the situation is nothing, but you have authenticated yourself by an act of the will. But the difficulty is that authentication has no rational or logical content — all directions of an act of the will are equal. Therefore, similarly, if you are driving along and see the man in the rain, speed up your car, and knock him down, you have in an equal measure authenticated your will. Do you understand? If you do, cry for modern man in such a hopeless situation. (Schaeffer, F. A. (1996, c1982). Escape From Reason)

    For Sartre, your list of actions are nothing more than your way of authenticating yourself. Your actions cannot be used as a universal moral standard (don’t be disappointed). Sartre would consider your moral rules as slavery to a bad construct. In the last sentence of his book Being and Nothingness, Sartre writes “all human activities are equivalent” , and “it amounts to the same thing whether one gets drunk alone or is a leader of nations.”

    My argument for morality would be that of C.S. Lewis’ Moral Argument. Summarized here by Geisler, N. L. (1999)
    1. There must be a universal moral law, or else: (a) Moral disagreements would make no sense, as we all assume they do. (b) All moral criticisms would be meaningless (e.g., “The Nazis were wrong.” ). (c) It is unnecessary to keep promises or treaties, as we all assume that it is. (d) We would not make excuses for breaking the moral law, as we all do.

    2. But a universal moral law requires a universal Moral Law Giver, since the Source of it: (a) Gives moral commands (as lawgivers do). (b) Is interested in our behavior (as moral persons are).

    3. Further, this universal Moral Law Giver must be absolutely good: (a) Otherwise all moral effort would be futile in the long run, since we could be sacrificing our lives for what is not ultimately right. (b) The source of all good must be absolutely good, since the standard of all good must be completely good.

    4. Therefore, there must be an absolutely good Moral Law Giver.
    The Moral Law Is Not Herd Instinct. What we call the moral law cannot be the result of herd instinct or else the stronger impulse would always win, but it does not. We would always act from instinct rather than selflessly to help someone, as we sometimes do. If the moral law were just herd instinct, then instincts would always be right, but they are not. Even love and patriotism are sometimes wrong.

    The Moral Law Is Not Human Fancy. Neither can the moral law be mere human fancy, because we cannot get rid of it even when we would like to do so. We did not create it; it is impressed on us from without. If it were fancy, then all value judgments would be meaningless, including such statements as “Hate is wrong.” and “Racism is wrong.” But if the moral law is not a description or a merely human prescription, then it must be a moral prescription from a Moral Prescriber beyond us. As Lewis notes, this Moral Law Giver is more like Mind than Nature. He can no more be part of Nature than an architect is identical to the building he designs.

    The Moral Law Is Not Social Convention.
    The Moral Law Differs from Laws of Nature.
    Injustice Does Not Disprove a Moral Law Giver
    Lewis recalls the thoughts he had as an atheist:

    Let me give you a quote from C. S. Lewis
    quote:

    Just how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust. . . . Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too– for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist– in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless– I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality– namely my idea of justice– was full of sense. [Mere Christianity, 45, 46]

    Posted by RBH (Member # 802) on 04-23-2005 10:22 AM04-23-2005 10:22 AM:

    teleologist wrote
    quote:

    From the information that you’ve given me I have no idea and it frankly is irrelevant to obtaining a consistent epistemology of a worldview. Before I continue let me just say that you are correct I may not know anything well enough to criticize anything. OTOH, you may think you know everything and may very well do. I am just trying to make do with what I got. So feel free to just brush me off, because I will try to layout what I think is at the heart of the issue.

    The quote that you responded to was from a discussion between KC and I on the futility of atheistic Darwinism to arrive at a objective morality. My point was that you cannot have morality from a random purposeless universe. IOW, from a mindless collection of molecules, you cannot derive an objective (universal) moral value.

    I think that there’s some confusion in terms here. Distinguish between a “consistent” morality, in the sense of a moral system held by a single person that is internally consistent, and a “shared” morality, which is a moral system shared by a group of people. They are not synonyms. I do not know everything, and in particular I do not know what moral system everyone should adopt. I do know something about what I prefer regarding the moral system adopted by the people with whom I live and work. I don’t presume to impose it on them: I choose the people with whom I will associate according to their behavior in that respect.

    My point in reciting the fire department stuff was to emphasize that moral behavior does not depend upon my accepting a universal moral system but a personal one. I am not the one claiming that my moral beliefs are a ‘one size fits all’ prescription, nor am I the one claiming that there must be an elaborate ‘one size fits all’ moral system.

    A month or so ago there was a death of a student at the college with which I am associated, and since then there’s been a spasm of meetings about how it might have been prevented, with lots of talk (colleges, like message boards, are infested with talk). But the moral “prescription” that’s on point can be expressed in five words: Take care of one another. That’s all it takes. Everything else flows from that. And that moral rule does not come from scripture, it does not depend on fear of some wupernatural entity. It comes from experience with a lot of communities in a lot of contexts. Those that are good to live in are composed of people who, in greater or lesser degree, follow that general rule. Those that are not emotionally and intellectually rewarding to live in aren’t. Sartre, theologians, philosophers, and message boards fog the issue into a blur with a whole lot of words that actually get in the way of understanding. Morality does not lie in words, it lies in deeds. No amount of talk, no amount of praying, no amount of semantic games ever grounded a moral life.

    In the end I don’t have to impose my moral rules on anyone else, either by persuasion or fear of an aftgerlife. Rather, I choose associates whose behavior, a consequence of the moral decisions they have made on whatever grounds they think appropriate, is consistent with what I believe to be appropriate behavior. That’s why I like the fire department. It is mostly composed of people who vary enormously in their expressed beliefs — words — but whose behavior is consistent with my views: in the crunch, this is how you behave. It ain’t what they say, it’s what they do that counts.

    RBH

    Posted by teleologist (Member # 191) on 04-23-2005 05:22 PM04-23-2005 05:22 PM:

    quote:

    Originally posted by RBH:
    I think that there’s some confusion in terms here. Distinguish between a “consistent” morality, in the sense of a moral system held by a single person that is internally consistent, and a “shared” morality, which is a moral system shared by a group of people. They are not synonyms.

    There is no confusion. I am saying the two are related. I don’t know how much of the Lewis argument have you read or understand. The point is that you can’t have one without the other.
    quote:

    Originally posted by RBH:
    I do not know everything, and in particular I do not know what moral system everyone should adopt. I do know something about what I prefer regarding the moral system adopted by the people with whom I live and work. I don’t presume to impose it on them: I choose the people with whom I will associate according to their behavior in that respect.

    I guarantee you that you don’t believe this and I will elaborate in context below.
    quote:

    Originally posted by RBH:
    A month or so ago there was a death of a student at the college with which I am associated, and since then there’s been a spasm of meetings about how it might have been prevented, with lots of talk (colleges, like message boards, are infested with talk). But the moral “prescription” that’s on point can be expressed in five words: Take care of one another. That’s all it takes. Everything else flows from that.

    This is the reason I know you don’t believe what you just said above. If the Nightstalker came into your house torture and killed your family, you would say that is an immoral behavior, because it is contrary to your personal moral system. However, would you then also say that it was a moral behavior as far as the Nightstalker himself was concerned? I think not. You are seeking to impose your moral system on someone when you make that judgment.

    Let’s take something less drastic using your example of the death of a student. I don’t know the details but let’s assumed that it was a drunken football player who raped and killed a young girl in her dorm room. This would violate your moral system and those talking on campus. Did you tell them the truth about what you really believe in? That although you agree this was an immoral act, but to the person committing this act it may be moral, therefore you will not make any judgment, if that was the right thing for him to do. It would be wrong for you personally, but for the football player it might be right, as long as he thinks is the right thing to do.

    Do you still think that your moral system is not a ‘one size fits all’ system?
    quote:

    Originally posted by RBH:
    Those that are not emotionally and intellectually rewarding to live in aren’t. Sartre, theologians, philosophers, and message boards fog the issue into a blur with a whole lot of words that actually get in the way of understanding. Morality does not lie in words, it lies in deeds. No amount of talk, no amount of praying, no amount of semantic games ever grounded a moral life.

    I am sorry but this is just anti-intellectual nonsense. Ideas have consequences. Whether you like it or not, ideas affect the actions of people. Even if you stick your head in the sand and do the deeds then everything will be fine. What deeds? The deeds that you think are appropriate for you. Which stems from the ideas in your head. To say that the only thing that matters is your idea of deeds, are the only ones that matter is the height of arrogance. Pardon me for being harsh but it is not necessarily directed toward you but to this system of thoughts.

    Why does our government always say that we need to educate people about drug, obesity, sex, violence, tolerance, etc…, because ideas matter. Is it as simple as just ‘Take care of one another’? The guy who is saying that today might be out killing the next, because his moral compass as changed due to some personal benefits that he can gain from killing. Morality cannot be based on herd instinct or human fancy as Lewis said. His point is, it is not that human beings cannot construct a system of moral, but the significance and meaning of such a system requires an infinite reference point as Sartre puts it. You can hold to your moral system if you want RBH, but ‘moral disagreements would make no sense’.

  14. teleologist,

    Your argument is flawed.

    1) I have my own personal morality. I judge myself and others according to this personal morality. Yes, sometimes I act in ways that I later regret because I broke one of my own rules to obtain some short term gain.

    2) Likewise, other people have their own moralities and judge themselves and others accordingly.

    3) There is immense overlap in the subjective moral views, but there are also significant differences. Some religious people think that sex outside marriage is evil. I do not. That’s a very clear moral difference.

    4) Since there are differences, you cannot claim that our moralities are imposed from without unless you also claim that the immoralities are somehow imposed from without (e.g., the Devil made me do it). In that case, your original assertion is unwarranted because it is no longer an “explanation” of why our moralities are uniform.

    5) If someone does something I consider to be immoral, I’m not necessarily going to let them get away with it just because it is moral to them. I don’t care whether honor killing is considered moral in some cultures, I don’t think it is, so I will oppose those who engage or support such activity. Even if there are more of them than me, I’m still going to oppose it because I would not want to be bound (or have my loved ones be bound) under such a social contract.

    6) Likewise, the fact that humans are evolved biomachines does not limit my ability (nor the consistency of my desire) to punish or constrain people from committing acts that they find moral but that I find I find immoral.

    7) Shared morality is a social contract. I may not be thrilled with every clause, but the contract is better than no contract. Furthermore, most people agree to social contract, even if they don’t agree to be bound by certain clauses. Many people will evade or fight the penalties within legal contract if they are caught out on a clause they dispute.

    Morality is more like economics than geometry. There are no perfect moralities, just like there are no truly free markets.

    In the cited example of the nightstalker, the nightstalker may well consider his actions to be moral. That has no bearing on my viewing his acts as evil, or my acting to condemn and seek retribution against the perpetrator.

    Similarly, when evangelicals persecute and abuse homosexuals, they think they’re being moral, but I say they are not. Same goes for people who think that the lives of fertilized eggs are equal to the lives of women. There is symmetry here because they think I’m being evil as much as I think they are.

    Creating God in one’s moral image is a shield against the recognition that morality is a function of personal taste. It’s also a sword for illogically imposing one’s moral views on others. That’s how right-wingers reconcile their gun ownership (a right that threatens their neighbors) with anti-choice positions (the banning of the rights of others that don’t threaten them). All take and no give. It may be logical for religionists to seek a social contract in which only their personal moralities are favored, just like it would be logical for me to seek to obtain a business contract that cheated the other side. However, it is illogical to expect the other parties to the contract to want to be cheated, or to view that cheating as good faith bargaining.

  15. Your argument is flawed.

    doctor(logic), once again you’ve complete missed my argument. It just went right over your head. My argument is not about competing human subjective morality. My argument does not depend on one’s subjective justification of their morality. My argument is based on what Sartre refers to as the “infinite reference” and Lewis refers to as “universal moral law” . Darwinism and Atheism lacks this Absolute therefore it is amoral. The inconsistency with this atheistic amorality is that every human screams out a desire for morality. Our existence convicts the very nature of Darwinism and Atheism.

  16. The inconsistency with this atheistic amorality is that every human screams out a desire for morality.

    Every human screams out for ice cream, but that doesn’t mean that there is an absolute flavor of ice cream, nor that there is a place in the universe where there are unlimited quantities of it. Nor does our existence convict the very nature of the Old Country Buffet. (Okay, it might just a little. 🙂 )

    Lewis’s argument falls flat in step 1. (a), (b) (c), and (d) are all false, and I just explained why in my last comment.

    Your argument appears to be that evolution can’t be right because it offends your picture of an ideal moral universe.

  17. doctor(logic),

    Every human screams out for ice cream, but that doesn’t mean that there is an absolute flavor of ice cream

    You really have a problem with analogy. For your ice cream analogy to be equivalent to mine, it will have to be phrase; “Every human screams out for ice cream but there is no ice cream” .

    Lewis’s argument falls flat in step 1. (a), (b) (c), and (d) are all false, and I just explained why in my last comment.

    Really? I don’t think so. All you did was to explain why you think your view of morality is good enough for you. Lewis’s argument is completely over your head.

    Your argument appears to be that evolution can’t be right because it offends your picture of an ideal moral universe.

    Again you are wrong. Evolution is wrong before is it moralistically inconsistent. Evolution is wrong because it is scientifically bankrupt.

  18. You really have a problem with analogy. For your ice cream analogy to be equivalent to mine, it will have to be phrase; “Every human screams out for ice cream but there is no ice cream” .

    Wrong. Just about everyone has a favored morality. It’s just that people don’t agree on what flavor it should be. You cannot argue that I don’t have a morality any more than I can argue that you don’t. It’s manifestly true that we both do. It’s just those moralities differ. So, again, just because we both demand morality, doesn’t imply that there has to be a universal one. We get value from our separate moralities in the same way different people get value from their respective favorite ice cream flavors.

    The thing people might scream for and not receive is universal justice. But there again, that would seem impossible because we each have our own subjective morality. Even if it were possible, just wanting it doesn’t make it so.

    Let’s look at (a) in Lewis’s argument. In what way do moral disagreements not make sense when morality is subjective? Seems to make perfect sense to me. Just like debates about what flavor ice cream to buy.

    And, um, it is Christianity that is moralistically inconsistent.

  19. doctor(logic),

    Let’s look at (a) in Lewis’s argument. In what way do moral disagreements not make sense when morality is subjective? Seems to make perfect sense to me. Just like debates about what flavor ice cream to buy.

    Again, please try to understand what I am saying. It is not a matter of which flavor of ice cream one prefers. Please try to think about this for a moment. When you say that you prefer chocolate ice cream and I say I prefer vanilla ice cream, is there a contradiction? IOW, are they mutually exclusive? No there is no way you can draw a logic fallacy from these 2 statements. However, when you say that murder and torture is wrong and I say that murder and torture is good, then we have a direct contradiction. We cannot both be right at the same time and mean the same thing. It is a logical contradiction. Do you understand that? Are you with me so far? Now here is the kicker, by suggesting a moral subjectivism as a epistemology you are essentially saying that there is no contradiction between these moral views. Under your rubric of epistemology although you may not agree with the person who thinks that murder and torture is good, nevertheless it is as valid a moral construct as your own. If you were to follow your subjective morality to it’s logical conclusion, it would mean that you couldn’t impose any law on anyone else, because every action are as valid as everyone else’s. In essence is morality is subjective then there is no morality. This is the point of Lewis and even your ideological soul mate Sartre recognizes this point.

  20. doctor(logic),

    And, um, it is Christianity that is moralistically inconsistent.

    As to the link that you’ve provided here, do you really think that this makes sense? Do you really think that this author has brought up something new and that Christians have not addressed any of his rants? He seems more like a disgruntle follower of religion and was never a true Christian.

    He claims to have talked to some really smart Catholics and all they can tell him was to pray. All Christians muse be really stupid and intellectually blind right? Consider this other quote from his book.

    Well, as I read about Abraham and Sarah, I learned otherwise. I learned that Abraham was a cowardly racist, and Sarah was a cruel-hearted, spiteful slave-owner. God’s chosen couple?

    Think about this. Does this make any sense at all? Let’s assume that he is correct that Christianity is an invention by people. How stupid do you think these authors of the Bible are? If you were going to write a book to deceive and convince people that there is this great religion that they need to follow, would you make a mockery of the object (God) of worship? This kind of critics comes across as those they are the only one with any intelligence and all religion and the alleged deceivers of these religion are morons. It doesn’t even make sense.

    It is obvious he has no understanding of ancient manuscripts, Biblical Archaeology and Near Eastern culture.

  21. teleologist,

    There is no question of contradiction at all. There is only conflict, which is not the same thing.

    The ice cream analogy works in this case too. Suppose we have $5 between us, so we can only buy one scoop that we must share. Then we have a conflict. It is not a contradiction that we can’t agree on our first choice of ice cream, just a conflict. We might agree (make a social contract) to both contribute to buy a flavor that we are both comfortable with, or we might agree to alternate between two flavors. Social contract isn’t the only option (we have war or deprivation as alternatives). See? No logical contradiction.

    Likewise, there is no contradiction between my support for a given law and your opposition to that law. There is conflict, and that’s not the same thing.

    If you were to follow your subjective morality to it’s logical conclusion, it would mean that you couldn’t impose any law on anyone else, because every action are as valid as everyone else’s.

    Why does the recognition that someone else’s morality is as objectively valid as my own mean that I should not impose my own subjective laws on that person?

    I don’t see where the implication comes from.

    The reason why we agree on laws is by social contract, not due to some over-arching moral universality. Morality is dynamic.

    Living in our society, we agree to a social contract in which laws will be enforced. The vast majority of us benefit from such laws, even when there may be some laws or practices that we wish were codified, or which are codified but that we do not agree to.

    Let’s assume that he is correct that Christianity is an invention by people. How stupid do you think these authors of the Bible are? If you were going to write a book to deceive and convince people that there is this great religion that they need to follow, would you make a mockery of the object (God) of worship?

    The story of Abraham wasn’t stupid to Bronze Age folk. It was music to their ears because that was their morality at the time! When the Old Testament was written, the reaction from readers (well, listeners) would have been “We get to own slaves? Rape those who “deserve it”? We men get to be the bosses? War on neighboring tribes? Bring it on!”

  22. doctor(logic),

    There is no question of contradiction at all. There is only conflict, which is not the same thing.

    I give up. I can’t argue with this. We obviously live in different universes. If you can post with a straight face that there is no contradiction of morality between someone like the BTK pervert and what most of us who think his actions are vile and loathsome. If this is not a contradiction of morality, I don’t know what is.

    The reason why we agree on laws is by social contract, not due to some over-arching moral universality. Morality is dynamic.

    Wow, the Nazis needed you as the judge in the Nuremberg trial. The radical Islamic fascists would find an ally in this statement. IOW, there is no rights and wrongs, no good and evil, we only have a contract of subjugation by power. If your social contract says that it is good to kill 6 million Jews then there is nothing wrong with that as long as you reside in that society. If your social contract says that it is good to kill anyone who makes a cartoon that offends your belief that is also fine. I repeat we live in a different universe.

    When the Old Testament was written, the reaction from readers (well, listeners) would have been “We get to own slaves? Rape those who “deserve it” ? We men get to be the bosses? War on neighboring tribes?

    Don’t take this the wrong way but this is just ignorance with no understanding of ancient cultures. Slave ownership should be placed in historical context but do they glorify “cruel-hearted, spiteful slave-owner” ? Please this is inane. Patriarchal society and wars are debatable and needs to be discussed in context. The Bible also glorified women in that same time period with characters like Deborah in Judges. It required people to free their slaves and demanded kindness, gentleness, peace and respect all in the same period. You are so deluded that you just don’t have any objectivity. Like the author of your website he was not being objective in his second reading of the Bible. He was reading it with as a biased antagonist. That’s the reason he is unable to understand the simplest logical fallacy in his diatribe about the Bible.

    The bottom-line is that the Biblical authors did not try to paint people as perfect. On the contrary it is trying to show that we are all flawed and failed Creatures in need of a Savior. The point of the Bible is not to show that Abraham or anyone else are more deserving to be chosen by God, but a mere sinner saved by the grace of a merciful God. This is why the Bible does not fit into the myths and deceptive human inventions of other religious text.

  23. If you can post with a straight face that there is no contradiction of morality between someone like the BTK pervert and what most of us who think his actions are vile and loathsome.

    They way you speak denies the consistency of two different things having mutually exclusive attributes. You’re saying the equivalent of “There cannot be an all-red Ford Mustang and an all-blue Ford Mustang because that would be contradictory.” This is plainly false. It would only be inconsistent for there to be a Mustang that was simultaneously all-red and all-blue.

    Thus, one person cannot hold our moralities and BTK’s at the same time without being contradictory. But there’s more than one person here. There’s BTK and the rest of us. So there’s no contradiction, only conflict.

    If my preferred world contains only all-blue Mustangs, then your red Mustang would be inconsistent with my preferred world. However, the world isn’t inconsistent just because my preferred world isn’t the one I observe.

    Wow, the Nazis needed you as the judge in the Nuremberg trial.

    What are you talking about? I would be one of the last people they would want to see on the bench. To the degree that a judge’s personal morality influences his decision, a judge can use his personal morality to judge the actions of others. Since the Nazis offend my morality, it matters not a jot to me whether they thought they were doing the right thing, nor whether other courts past or future might give them a pass. They’re going down. Conflict.

    People are judged by the rules of society. As society changes so do the rules. Slavery was in, now it’s out. Racism was in, now it’s out. Homophobia was in, now it’s out. When enough people are willing to change the law, the law changes, or you get civil war.

    We generally seem to have been making moral progress over the centuries because we are less fearful and more empathic than we once were, and because we have rejected dictatorship for democracy wherein our moral choices are viewed as important.

    But ratchet up the fear another level, and our morality goes out the window. Spying on Americans without safeguards? “Gee, I’m terrified by the terrorists, let’s do that.” Racial profiling? “They scare me!” Torturing people? “They might be terrorists, so I’m sure our boys and girls were justified.” Invasion of another nation without cause? “There might be terrorists there! Better safe than sorry.” Holding the families of suspects in an effort to bring in wanted men? “Well, I won’t kick up a fuss about that, because the wanted men fill me with terror.” And on it goes.

    Osama is winning this thing as long as our morality crumbles in the face of his terror.

    The bottom-line is that the Biblical authors did not try to paint people as perfect. On the contrary it is trying to show that we are all flawed and failed Creatures in need of a Savior.

    You are reading the Bible under the axiom that it must be true. Is there anythinjg you could ever read in the Bible, any contradiction you could find, that would lower your confidence in its truth? Of course not. You’ll make any excuse. You are unwilling to bring the same skepticism you show for Origin of Species or other scientific works to bear the Bible. If Origin of Species had just one contradiction you would be all over it like a cheap suit. But the Bible, riddled with inconsistencies, gets a free pass. Why is that?

  24. I know I said I give up, and I am prepared to let the readers judge who is being more biased between my worldview or doctor(logic)’s. I think I have sufficiently refuted all his diatribes including his misinformed distortion of Christianity. However, doctor(logic) did make another point that the casual reader might not realize. You see, doctor(logic) is a typical Darwinist. He behaves like a religious cult in that he will obfuscate, equivocate and conflate words that are normally understood. Consider his assertion here.

    You’re saying the equivalent of “There cannot be an all-red Ford Mustang and an all-blue Ford Mustang because that would be contradictory.” This is plainly false. It would only be inconsistent for there to be a Mustang that was simultaneously all-red and all-blue.

    Thus, one person cannot hold our moralities and BTK’s at the same time without being contradictory. But there’s more than one person here. There’s BTK and the rest of us. So there’s no contradiction, only conflict.

    Let me remind everyone here what we are talking about, morality. doctor(logic) obscures the subject by using bad analogies like ice cream and Mustangs. He then conflates the subject (person) with the object (morality), using semantic gymnastics to create a synthesis where none exists.

    While there are many people, there is only one morality. You see when two people are speaking about love, hate, good and evil they are referring to the same object. They are referring to the same emotions and constructs. It is true that they can have different understanding of these qualities, but nevertheless they are referring to the same object. When someone is referring to love, they are not referring to vanilla or chocolate. They are referring to an emotion that engenders kindness, caring passion and tenderness toward the object of that affection. It is also possible for different people to express that affection toward different objects and different objects might not spawn the same reaction from different people. However, there is only one term we use for love, just as there is only one term for morality. Hence the problem of contradiction that doctor(logic) is brazenly denying. The contradiction again is when I refer to morality; I assert that the wanton murder and torture of people for pleasure is immoral. On the other hand in BTK’s moral construct, murder and torture is an indulgence that gives him pleasure. BTK and I are referring to the same “morality” . We have a contradictory interpretation of that morality. There aren’t different colors of morality. We can apply our morality toward different situation but there is still only ONE morality that we can refer to.

    Now to repeat what I’ve said in the previous posts, in the presence of a moral contradiction, it is impossible to resolve the contradiction without an Absolute frame of reference. Therefore annihilating the existence of morality.

  25. teleologist,

    You are attempting to show that there must be a universal morality (option 1), and that morality cannot simply be subjective (option 2).

    So, you say:

    The contradiction again is when I refer to morality; I assert that the wanton murder and torture of people for pleasure is immoral. On the other hand in BTK’s moral construct, murder and torture is an indulgence that gives him pleasure. BTK and I are referring to the same “morality” .

    The only way to get a contradiction is to assume you are both talking about the same thing, i.e., to assume that there is a universal morality. This means that you are assuming your conclusion (option 1) in your premises, i.e., you are begging the question.

    If option 2 is the case, then you’re not referring to the same morality as BTK, and there’s no contradiction. If morality is subjective, then you would each be describing your personal feelings about good and evil which are free to differ.

    (BTW, I’m not certain that the last sentence of your last post came out as you intended it.)

  26. I don’t know how this thread got high-jacked into a discussion on “morals: absolute or subjective”, but the OP dealt with something completely different. I’m still waiting for an answer to that.

  27. DonaldM, sorry for the digression, I will moderate the thread to stay on topic.

  28. An inference to design and theism is a perfectly reasonable and natural conclusion based on the evidence and what we know about the nature of causation. Blind-watchmaker evolution (BWE) might have been a reasonable hypothesis based on extremely primitive 19th century “science,” but that is no longer the case. BWE flies in the face of modern biological and information-theoretic science, and requires astronomical faith in vanishingly small probabilities. Theism requires only a small amount of reasonable faith.

  29. Gil,

    I’ve seen this tack before. Portray the scientific community as having ruled out naturalism and evolution. That’s just blatantly false. Science is not on your side. Reductionism is on even more solid ground now than it was in the 19th century. BWE does not fly in the face of modern science, as scientists will attest. I’m being generous by calling your statement an error.

    You may claim (without justification I might add) that BWE is improbable. However, it is at least predictive.

    In contrast, theism predicts nothing. It is infinitesimally fine-tuned to be consistent with whatever we see, no matter what we see. In fact, it has an infinite number of unknown parameters because no matter how much we observe, we still cannot make any predictions. In effect, the parameters of the theory are all the individual observations we ever make.

    Why did God create what we see instead of what we don’t see? Why did God choose to create an inhabited universe? Why is chlorophyl green? Talk about fine-tuning! So it is ID that has the virtually insurmountable probability barrier.

    Consistency is not enough. An explanation has to identify rules in the universe that tell us that we MUST observe what we have observed. ID has no such rules, so it’s not even an explanation. BTW, it doesn’t matter whether you have no rules or whether you have rules that rely only on unknowables. Either way, you have no explanation. Indeed, that’s what the term supernatural means: inexplicable.

  30. doc logic:

    Consistency is not enough. An explanation has to identify rules in the universe that tell us that we MUST observe what we have observed. ID has no such rules, so it’s not even an explanation. BTW, it doesn’t matter whether you have no rules or whether you have rules that rely only on unknowables. Either way, you have no explanation. Indeed, that’s what the term supernatural means: inexplicable.

    How do you justify saying that supernatural means “inexplicable”. That statement is a good example of a presupposition sneaking in the back door. As you use the term ‘inexplicable’ here, it means ‘unexplainable by natural causes.’ But that presupposes that anything we observe in the natural world is ultimately explainable by natural causes. The only way to know that, however, is to know, somehow, that the cosmos is a closed system of natural cause and effect. That is the real pre-supposition behind saying “supernatural means ‘inexplicable'”. How do you know scientifically that the cosmos is, in fact, a closed system of natural cause and effect? I would contend that there is no way to know that scientifically, and that it represents a philosophical pre-supposition only. Absent a good philosophical argument for what amounts to philosophical naturalism, there doesn’t seem to be much hope for this pre-supposition. As such, it doesn’t really have much force as a defeater of theism, which is clearly how you employ it.

    You are correct in saying that theism doesn’t predict anything, if you mean that in a scientific sense. But theism isn’t a scientific principle. Theism is philosophical (or theological, if you prefer). Asking it to be amenable to the methods of science is a category mistake. BWE does not contrast to theism as you attempt to do here. BWE relies solely on undirected (read non-telic or unintelligent) natural causes. Therefore, the proper contrast to make is between undirected, natural causes on the one hand (BWE) and intelligent causes on the other.

    In order to completely rule out intelligent causes, you would have to be able to explain how you know scientifically that the properties of the cosmos are such that any apparent design we observe in biological systems can not be actual design, even in principle. Do you have a scientific case for that? If not, and I’m certain you don’t, then we’re back to philosophy. Then we have to ask, on what philosophical grounds can we make the claim that the properties of the cosmos are such that any apparent design we observe in a natural system, can not be actual design, even in principle? I don’t know of anyone, ever, including Hume, who has ever been able to make the definitive case for naturalism, which is really what you are trying to just presuppose in all of your arguments.

    Absent a case for philosophical naturalism, there doesn’t seem to be any good reason to exclude intelligent design as a live possibility for explanation of observations in the natural world. Again, this has nothing to do with theism, even if ID can be employed as an apologetic for theism.

  31. DonaldM,

    I’m not arguing that we know scientifically that all phenomena can be explained by natural laws of cause and effect. There may be phenomena that cannot be explained by natural laws of cause and effect, either because we lack the information to do so, or because causality does not apply to them.

    However, I’m asking how you can claim that acausal events are ever explained at all.

    Suppose we observe some phenomenon or configuration P. What consitutes an explanation of P? Isn’t an explanation of P a set of facts and rules that are consistent with P and not with some alternative P’?

    If we see a car wreck, our explanation can be found in the set of laws of physics combined with the facts of the car’s initial motion, and, say, the loss of control of that car by its driver. These laws of nature dictate that given the initial conditions, the accident must have occured. This explanation predicts other facts about the accident scene, e.g., skid marks, the condition of the driver, the potential reasons for the driver’s loss of control, the damage consistent with the physics of the impact, etc.

    It would not be explanatory to say that the car wrecked just because some magical being wanted it to happen if the magical being wants whatever we see to happen, no matter what we see. That would be no different from saying that the car wreck happened just “because”.

    IOW, the explanation must say why the magical being wanted the car wreck to happen as opposed to not having the car wreck happen. Such an explanation cannot fail to predict other car wrecks. If an explanation isn’t predictive, then what’s the difference between an explanation of a situation and the mere observation of that situation? If you accepted such a definition, then no situation would require an explanation at all because our observation of the situation would be indistinguishable from the explanation for what we have observed.

    So, I hope you can see that I’m not begging the question. I’m asking what distinguishes an explanation of P from the mere observation of P.

  32. doc logic:

    There may be phenomena that cannot be explained by natural laws of cause and effect, either because we lack the information to do so, or because causality does not apply to them.

    What sort of phenomenon would not have a cause? It’s not clear what you’re driving at here.

    However, I’m asking how you can claim that acausal events are ever explained at all.

    What is an “acausal” event? An event without a cause? Can you provide an example of such an event?

    As for the rest of your post about the car wreck, I’m really not sure where you’re walking the dog. You seem to be saying that for something to be “explained” it must be explained with reference to natural laws (or at least natural causes). Begging your pardon, but that does look like begging the question to me. You want to avoid the begging the question problem by speaking of events without causality or “acausal” phenomenon. But what that seems to imply is that events for which we have no explanation means events for which we have no “naturalistic” explanation. Why are explanatory resources limited to natural causes as you seem to be implying.

    You really haven’t answered my question: how do you know scientifically that the cosmos is a closed system of natural cause and effect? Speaking of “acausal” events doesn’t answer this question.

  33. DonaldM,

    Causality and locality are well-defined terms in the sense that we might devise experiments to detect these properties.

    Quantum mechanics tells us that, as far as we can tell, not all aspects of a final state are determined by the initial state. When positronium decays, one cannot know in advance what directions the photons will travel (except that they will be moving in opposite directions, and that they are given by a probability distribution). Now, QM doesn’t say that that the details of the final state are not causally determined, only that we cannot know them. However, it also doesn’t say that it is causally determined, either. That is, the direction of the photons may indeed be random.

    Locality (all information flows at the speed of light or below) is substantially obeyed, and this is what enables us to see causality. Without locality, each experiment might be affected by events that apparently haven’t happened yet (events not in the backward light cone). Violations of locality are not impossible, but they have never been detected, as far as we know.

    I would define a natural law as any law of cause and effect, or a rule of implication between one observation and another. So, if we fail to see any natural laws in a particular set of experiments, then there are two possibilities. The first case is that we don’t have enough data or haven’t yet recognized the rules. The second case is that there are no rules.

    As I see it, what we’re discussing here are the merits of proceeding on the assumption of this second case.

    To my mind, a materialist need not claim that all final states are fully specified by initial states. Nor can the materialist ever be certain that the rules will not change. However, the materialist sees no reason to ever declare that no rules can ever be found to explain a set of observations.

    Declaring a phenomenon as “supernatural” declares it to be inexplicable in terms of any discoverable laws of implication.

    For example, a naturalistic God (e.g., Seti I) would be bound by laws of physics. Or, if we’re running in a simulation (think The Matrix), then the system operator may be subject to different laws of physics than we are, but his behavior is largely deterministic nonetheless.

    However, a supernatural god is not generally considered to be subject to any laws of implication. IOW, declaration of supernaturality goes beyond our present limited ability to identify laws of implication and renders the phenomenon inexplicable in principle.

    Now we return to the question of explanation. Is not an explanation a set of rules of implication that, when applied to our data, show that what we observed was constrained to happen by its initial state?

    Or, to put it another way, if we make an observation and cannot infer the rules of implication, wouldn’t we say that the observation was unexplained? An event that has no apparent connection to prior states is an unexplained event.

    I’m perfectly happy to admit that certain events are unexplained, either because they are not investigated, or because we lack the resources to do the investigation.

    However, I reject the claim that anything non-predictive can ever constitute an explanation. Rules are always predictive. If there are no rules, or if the initial states are inaccessible, then there’s no explanation at all.

    Now, you may have a different definition of “supernatural”. That’s okay as long as we synchronize our meanings. Perhaps you consider God to be naturalistic under my definitions.

    However, I fail to see how God explains anything because there are no known rules that dictate what God does based on initial states. The same goes for generic ID. ID cannot be explanatory until proposes rules that we can test in the lab. It doesn’t have to predict everything, but predicting something would be a start.

    The reason why generic ID gets identified with the supernatural (ignoring the politics of the ID movement) is that its attack on evolution is wholly based on the idea that no mechanistic explanation for life will ever be found. Apart from the impossibility of substantiating this claim, it is functionally identical to declaring life supernatural in origin. All of ID’s efforts are focused on discrediting elements of evolutionary biology, not on predictions of its own.

    If ID were to introduce a specific, predictive, naturalistic model of intelligent design, it would be scientific. However, doing so would rob ID of its political force. ID relies on a psychological appeal that would vanish as soon as you started talking about aliens. If it were called Alien Design, it would be no more appealing than fringe ideas like UFO abduction, Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster.

  34. […] The other conflict between science and Atheism is the constant self righteous and intolerant claims by the atheists. Atheists make indignant remarks about who and what is evil and good, but they have no scientific and epistemological basis to make such declaration. Morality is meaningless in an atheistic construct, in the words of PZ Myers (sort of), “Atheism is confused, internally contradictory, and in conflict with evidence from the physical world” . You can read my lengthy comment on Atheism and Morality here. […]

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