All of us should by now be intimately familiar with this argument. It is the foundation of the arguments used by a religious friend of mine that I met on MySpace and have argued extensively on the whole Atheism v. Religion thing. And it is the argument that religious people use the most in my experience to justify their beliefs. And now we know that it is used to justify any beliefs, even those held by atheists, e.g. the existence of free will.

 

The argument goes, you cannot prove that what I say isn't true, so maybe it is! Wonderfully simplistic. And here is why it can be so frustrating and devastating. It instantly puts any position on the same footing as any other. By saying that there is no proof for any position (there so very rarely is incontrovertible proof), 2 things are accomplished. First, it is used to break down your own position to their level. Your claims aren't proved, and neither are theirs. Who is to say who is right or wrong? Secondly, it can be used to justify nearly any belief. You don't believe in gremlins? But can you prove they don't exist? Then you could JUST AS EASILY be wrong!

 

I say we call this argument for what it is, and refuse to entertain the arguments of people who use it. It is a matter for epistemological discussion, and when lack of proof becomes any sort of issue it instantly turns into a, epistemological debate, one which distracts from the argument at hand. Epistemological debates need to be cordoned-off from debates about nearly anything else (metaphysical debates on the other hand are usually so inextricably linked that they become one and the same argument).

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I believe that this argument you are referring to is one of the best illustrations of the ability religion has to use ambiguity to further their agenda. Confuse and conquer should be religion's motto.

I think that the exercise to refute ambiguity will only edify the one who is doing the arguing, so I do not think it is a waste of time, but, I would suggest expanding your arsenal. I do not have specific tools in mind, but I (if I can use this phrase) have faith that the scientific method could be used to develop new tools against the millennia old skill of using ambiguity to further one's agenda.

The crackpot strikes again!
Have a great day!
Yeah, here's the pot calling the kettle black! You ask me to expand my repertoire, but your sole use of the argument from ambiguity shows that it is you who are the one-trick pony! I am not trying to make fun of you or hurt your feelings, keep listening and we will all be happy to help you expand your understanding of these arguments. The scientific method is a tool, but we should not think that science alone is the answer to religion. Philosophy is a necessary component of a whole world-view, and is essential to the scientific method itself. I hope you don't think philosophy is mere ambiguity! But I agree with you that religion's modus operandi is to confuse and conquer.
Thank you for your offer to educate me. I sincerely hope that you do.

I am sure you can educate me if you know where I am coming from:
This is what I believe is the simple truth that protects me from believing in what is not true:
Ambiguous language does not define anything in any manner that all humans can agree on. Ambiguity came about from the need to define what was then not understood. Some of the smarter people of the past recognized that ambiguity made people feel and act a certain way. They practiced and honed their skill at using ambiguity to influence people. Now, millennia later, after centuries of practice of the scientific method, the majority of the human population is influenced by ambiguity.

This belief and concern of mine not only focuses on religion, but also politics.

Arguments are possible only in the influence of ambiguity. I contend that it seems that the human animal is predisposed to be influenced by ambiguity, but to be consistent with my crackpot persona, I offer the half baked idea that the millennia of practicing ambiguity as a tool toward the user of that tool's agenda have caused the human animal to evolve into this predisposition to believe the untrue.

If you agree that the definition of "up" is something that every human animal agrees upon by demonstrating with a finger which way is up, then you understand what I strive to achieve. A solid, unambiguous definition for everything in the human experience. This goal may not be achievable, but the goal itself is a worthy one.

I would like you to imagine a world where that goal has been achieved. Would, in that world, there be any arguments? And I define arguments here as opposition to the meaning of an idea proposed by your opponent. I do not mean a disagreement over land ownership, or righting a wrong.

The only purpose of arguments that I deem of value is the process by which we get to a solid, unambiguous definition of the idea being argued over.

Well, I have explained where this crackpot is coming from. I have faith that my position is extremely solid and unambiguous.
Well I'm much too drunk to make a coherent argument right now. I think you are going a bit overboard with this ambiguity stuff. I agree that ambiguity is the cause of much philosophical wrangling and dispute, but an argument is more than just arguing that one person is being ambiguous. Is the word ambiguous ambiguous? And so on. Its not terribly helpful. It can get you somewhere, but only so far and for so long. After that you really do have to try to work on another's terms and find things that you can agree with. Then the arguments become clearer and there is less ambiguity! Anywho, anybody want to help me out here?
I will try to explain what I understand the text above is saying to me. The word ambiguous is not defined with a solid definition that all humans on this planet and in Space can agree on. So, I should accept arguments that use words that are not defined with a solid definition that all humans on Earth and in Space can agree on to bring me closer to a definition that is defined with a solid definition that all humans can agree to. If p, then q. If I use ambiguity, then I can reach a solid definition that all humans can agree on.

I have used all my capacity to understand your drunken text above and came up with the garbage in the paragraph above. Obviously, I am not an educated person. I cannot understand the necessity of using ambiguity to reach a consensus. But I have expressed that one of the purposes of the religious method is to confuse people in such a manner as to influence them into believing the untrue.

I think you (whether intentionally or not) are using the religious method to (in your own words) "defend your sense of self".

So, in the same vain as your observation of me being "the one-trick pony", I will call you Pope, and you can call me the crackpot. I really am enjoying the persona of crackpot.

Have a wonderful evening!!
Well this wasn't constructive. Haha
Ah yes, I'm afraid not. This gentlemen, who has since left our little group, wanted to use another argument to the exclusion of all others, the argument from language. I was going to start another discussion on it just for him, but he left the group before I had thought of it. The next crackpot to wander in here and argue the same points will get a taste of it though.

 

Cane invited me in responce to my blog WE CAN TAKE THE WORD FAITH AWAY FROM CHRISTIANS AND I CAN PROVE IT

 

i HAVE READ YOUR DISCUSSIONS AND HAVE CONCLUDED THAT YOUR ARGUMENTS ARE LIKE ARGURING OVERF WHICH FINGER IS MORE USEFUL ON THE RIGHT HAND. THEN IT MOVED TO WHICH IS LEAST USEFUL THEN IT MOVED TO ,,, WELL LET'S CUT OPFF THE LEAST USEFULL FINGER ,,,, LET' NOT GO THEIR UNLESS YOU ARE QUALIFIED TO DO THE CUTTING ALL FORWARD MOTION OF THE ATHEIST MOVEMENT IS GOOD IT IS JUST THAT SOME ARE BETTER THAN OTHERS yOUR NEW FRIEND CHARLES DEFRATES

 

With more thought  the word useage "ambiguous" is wrong because it does not include

" intended deception" the chruch want to keep their power prestage and to keep begging from an unstecting public. your friend charles defrates

 

Thanks again, Hitch.

Cool picture Mr. Black! Thanks, I've saved it.

Orion, I completely agree with your treatment of the problem of free will. However, this discussion is not about free will. The discussion is about how people (theists, mostly) argue that since you can't prove them wrong, then this means that they could be right.

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