Tuesday, March 31, 2015

"If there is no God, everything is permitted" in Woody Allen's movies

I think Allen's films (Crimes and Misdemeanors and Match Point) provide a forceful rebuttal to sanguine claims that are made on behalf of "Ethics Without God." It seems to me that, if we take Allen's message seriously, atheism, even if it is true (and Allen thinks it is true), atheism is ethically damaging in a significant range of cases, in that people can get involved in "everything is permitted" reasoning and never be held accountable by anyone, including themselves. 

It isn't that he thinks that ethics can come only from God. It is just that on an atheistic view it is perfectly possible for them to "get away with murder" and avoid punishment, even the internally imposed punishment of guilt feelings, which, it seems, can be overcome.

Particularly interesting is the difference between the outcome of Allen's movies and Crime and Punishment, which can only be explained in terms of the difference between Allen's atheism and Dostoyevsky's Russian Orthodox Christianity.

There is an ugly side to all of this, in that Allen has been accused of his own crimes and misdemeanors. Not murder, of course, but being a pedophile

Of course, Allen has not been proven guilty, but then, neither were his protagonists in the two movies. Did he fall into "everything is permitted" reasoning in his own life? 

Surely, a belief in ultimate moral accountability is hardly the only motive for being moral. More often than we realize, it does deter the evil in the hearts of men (and women). 

Papalinton likes this quote: "If religion cannot restrain evil. it cannot claim effective power for good." M Cohen, American professor of Philosophy and Law.

But I think that in many many, many instances, it does restrain evil. Of course, when it does restrain evil, it doesn't make it onto the evening news.

See also this discussion. .

Monday, March 30, 2015

A problem Bible passage

 When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are.  If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again.  But he is not allowed to sell her to foreigners, since he is the one who broke the contract with her.  And if the slave girl's owner arranges for her to marry his son, he may no longer treat her as a slave girl, but he must treat her as his daughter.  If he himself marries her and then takes another wife, he may not reduce her food or clothing or fail to sleep with her as his wife.  If he fails in any of these three ways, she may leave as a free woman without making any payment.   (Exodus 21:7-11 NLT)

At the risk of giving cannon fodder to resident gnus,  let me ask, how do we interpret this? 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Should it be illegal to quote this passage, on grounds that it's hate speech?

Roman s 1

26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Michael Murray on heavenly silence


Friday, March 27, 2015

Why evolution doesn't select for ethics


Religious motives for being moral

Often people assume that the only religious motives for being moral are those of getting to heaven and avoiding hell. These are often thought to be mercenary motives. But this is not the only kind of religious motivation for being moral. You might want to be moral  because it fulfills the purpose for which God created you.

Thursday, March 26, 2015


It seems to me that what is often the dividing point between physicalists and their opponents has to do whether they find functionalism acceptable. This is a basic description of functionalism.

Do you believe in karma?

Do you think we have good reason to believe in karma? In Hinduism, karma works because that is how people get reincarnated. But so far as this life is concerned, it seems as if people do, for example, get away with murder. They kill people, and it never gets detected, and they benefit from the crime they commit and die of old age in their beds. We might think they are internally tortured by their own crimes, but I would like to see some real evidence that this is always so. In this life, there is crime without punishment. 

Ryan Anderson on why government is involved with marriage


Is it really true that you gotta have a license?

Dogmatism in the philosophy of mind

In a good deal of philosophy of mind over the last 50 years or so, physicalism seems to have been taken as a kind of absolute presupposition. A good example would be Daniel Dennett, who says “before I could trust any of my intuitions about the mind, I had to figure out how the brain could possibly do the mind’s work.” This leads him to treat the brain as a “syntactic engine” that mimics the competence of semantic engines (though where Dennett thinks semantic engines can be found to mimic is, to say the least, very unclear). This strikes me as dogmatic, and leads me to think that, for the most part, materialist philosophers have not so much solved the problems posed by anti-materialist argument such as the argument from reason, but rather have presupposed that there has to be a materialistic solution to such problems. But what if these assumptions are questioned? If they are questioned, then the problems posed by arguments of the kind I have been presenting seem to me to expose a deep incoherence in philosophical naturalism.

The office of the "Devil's Advocate"

This is part of the process of canonizing a saint in the Catholic Church. Here. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Ten arguments against same-sex marriage


Parsons on what would convince him

Bob: For the record Keith Parsons does NOT say that no evidence would convince him. Quite the contrary, he gives what he thinks would have been a convincing scenario. See his scenario at 1:39. It's based on this passage by N. R. Hanson: 

'Next Tuesday morning, just after breakfast, all of us in this one world will be knocked to our knees by a percussive and ear-shattering thunderclap. Snow swirls, leaves drop from trees, the earth heaves and buckles, buildings topple and towers tumble. 

The sky is ablaze with an eerie silvery light, and just then, as all the people of this world look up, the heavens open, and the clouds pull apart, revealing an unbelievably radiant and immense Zeus-like figure towering over us like a hundred Everests. 

He frowns darkly as lighting plays over the features of his Michelangeloid face, and then he points down, at me, and explains for every man, woman and child to hear, "I've had quite enough of your too-clever logic chopping and word-watching in matters of theology. Be assured, Hanson, that I most certainly do exist!" '

Once, after reading a paper Keith wrote arguing against miracles way back in 1985, I asked Keith to assume that I were God, and wanted to know what kind of evidence he would find convincing. He answered by saying "If the galaxies in the Virgo cluster were to spell out the words "Turn or Burn, Parsons This Means You, I'd turn."