Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Science Vindicates Religion (sort of)

I'm-skeptical wrote: That's right. Time after time, science has looked at what was thought to be supernatural, and upon seeing the evidence, determined that it is not supernatural after all. This has been happening for centuries, with an unbroken record of success. Not once in all of history have the ignorant views of the superstitious been upheld by science. NOT ONCE.

VR: Oh really? The Bible says "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth," which assumes that there WAS a beginning. But was once thought essential to science that the universe be regarded as eternal and beginningless. The steady state theory of matter, the oscillating universe, etc. etc. etc., was brought forward because the universe just HAD to be beginningless. But the Big Bang Theory says it had a temporal beginning. The fact that atheists have decided they can live with a beginning of the universe doesn't undermine the fact that they all considered it beginningless before the Big Bang took hold. 

Determinism was thought to be an essential component of a scientific understanding of the world. B.F. Skinner said "You can't have a science about a subject matter that hops capriciously about. Perhaps we can never prove that man isn't free; it's an assumption. But the increasing success of a science of behavior makes it more and more plausible."

To which I can only say "Tell that to the scientists who developed quantum mechanics." Scientists have historically thought that they had to be determinists to be scientists, but last I checked no one wants to keep quantum mechanics from being taught in public school. Again, naturalism can be reconfigured to permit quantum indeterminism, but historically religious people typically rejected determinism, but scientists insisted on it.

But if naturalism can be reconfigured at every turn to absorb any and all scientific discoveries, then it "science's triumph of religion" becomes trivial. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Trashing the basis for the Kitzmiller decision

Here is an abstract for a paper.

Several prominent scientists, philosophers, and scientific institutions have argued that science
cannot test supernatural worldviews on the grounds that (1) science presupposes a naturalistic
worldview (Naturalism) or that (2) claims involving supernatural phenomena are inherently
beyond the scope of scientific investigation. The present paper argues that these assumptions are
questionable and that indeed science can test supernatural claims. While scientific evidence may
ultimately support a naturalistic worldview, science does not presuppose Naturalism as an a
priori commitment, and supernatural claims are amenable to scientific evaluation. This
conclusion challenges the rationale behind a recent judicial ruling in the United States concerning
the teaching of “Intelligent Design” in public schools as an alternative to evolution and the
official statements of two major scientific institutions that exert a substantial influence on science
educational policies in the United States. Given that science does have implications concerning
the probable truth of supernatural worldviews, claims should not be excluded a priori from
science education simply because they might be characterized as supernatural, paranormal, or
religious. Rather, claims should be excluded from science education when the evidence does not
support them, regardless of whether they are designated as ‘natural’ or ‘supernatural’.


Loftus on quoting atheists like Nagel

John Loftus, in a series of posts "How to defend the Christian faith," is of course trying to show what he thinks are the underhanded tactics of Christian apologists. 

Quote from atheists like Thomas Nagel or Jean Paul Sartre who say things you agree with. Throw them all together and let them make your case for you. Then forget or ignore why these people are atheists in the first place.

Ignore why they are atheists in the first place? Nagel says this about that.
“In speaking of the fear of religion, I don’t mean to refer to the entirely reasonable hostility toward certain established religions and religious institutions, in virtue of their objectionable moral doctrines, social policies, and political influence. Nor am I referring to the association of many religious beliefs with superstition and the acceptance of evident empirical falsehoods. I am talking about something much deeper–namely, the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers.
I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”(”The Last Word” by Thomas Nagel, Oxford University Press: 1997)”
Now suppose I, or better yet some major Christian philosopher like Plantinga were to say "I want theism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people are atheists. It isn't just that I believe in God, and, naturally, hope that I am right in my belief. It is that I hope there is a God. I want there to be a God, I want the universe to be like that. And suppose, further, I were to say that I was strongly motivated by a fear of atheism.
My goodness, you guys would be all over this! You would be saying that Plantinga or I had just complete admitted that my position was totally irrational, and that I was believing exclusively out of fear. As you say, people believe and defend what they prefer to be true. But we have just been told what Nagel prefers.
But, in the case of Nagel, he does offer reasons for rejecting a theistic solution to the problems he recognizes, and while I realize some Christians have read this as an admission of irrationality, I don't. What I do think it refutes is the assumption many atheists make that all the non-rational motives are on our side, and if anyone is an atheist, it can only be because of a sober analysis of the evidence.

Of course, you're more than happy to help yourself to the things people like Thom Stark say, even though he is a Christian, especially when I says he thinks Christians everywhere should be paying attention to Loftus.:) But I don't see a problem with that. You think Thom has a lot of things right, and you agree with those. You differ with him in that he remains a Christian. I have been looking for a post where you respond to the reasons Thom remains a Christian, and I guess it was in your review of Stark's book on Amazon. 

I don't assume that Nagel makes a case for Christianity, or that he's a closet Christian apologist. Let his atheistic critics accuse him of that. But he sees the same kind of difficulties with a materialistic naturalism that I do, only he looks for a non-theistic solution in much the way C. S. Lewis did when he embraced Absolute Idealism as opposed to theism when he accepted anti-naturalistic arguments. 

By the way, did you ever get around to responding to his reply? 


Sunday, January 25, 2015

Evidence against the "hallucination of the dying brain" hypothesis


Craig on whether we can be good without believing in God

Can we be good without God? At first the answer to this question may seem so obvious that even to pose it arouses indignation. For while those of us who are Christian theists undoubtedly find in God a source of moral strength and resolve which enables us to live lives that are better than those we should live without Him, nevertheless it would seem arrogant and ignorant to claim that those who do not share a belief in God do not often live good moral lives--indeed, embarrassingly, lives that sometimes put our own to shame.

Read more: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-indispensability-of-theological-meta-ethical-foundations-for-morality#ixzz3PspbFcwY- William Lane Craig

Friday, January 16, 2015

Nagel's Absolute Idealism

On p. 17 he identifies his position as objective idealist, and includes the post-Kantians Schelling and Hegel as representatives of his view, which are usually called absolute idealists. This is reminiscent of C. S. Lewis, who, once he became persuaded of the correctness of his Argument from Reason against naturalism, became, not a theist, but a Hegelian Absolute Idealists. His reason for avoiding theism could easily be described in Nagelian terms as a cosmic authority problem. Of course, Lewis eventually rejected Absolute Idealism in favor of first theism and then finally Christianity, while Nagel, of course, has not done this. 

Especially if they are true; it's best to keep it hush hush

Some months ago an American philosopher explained to a highly sophisticated audience in Britain what, in his opinion, was wrong, indeed fatally wrong, with the standard neo-Darwinian theory of biological evolution. He made it crystal clear that his criticism was not inspired by creationism, intelligent design or any remotely religious motivation. A senior gentleman in the audience erupted, in indignation: ‘You should not say such things, you should not write such things! The creationists will treasure them and use them against science.’ The lecturer politely asked: ‘Even if they are true?’ To which the instant and vibrant retort was: ‘Especially if they are true!’ with emphasis on the ‘especially’. (HT: Crude) 


Once again, just for fun, I am including a link to the Pistol Annies' song "Hush Hush." 

Hush hush don't you dare say a word
Hush hush don't you know the truth hurts
Hush hush when push comes to shove
It's best to keep it hush hush
Best to keep it hush hush

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Nagel on the not-science charge against ID

Judge Jones cited as a decisive reason for denying ID the status of
science that Michael Behe, the chief scientific witness for the defense,
acknowledged that the theory would be more plausible to someone who
believed in God than to someone who did not.12 This is just common
sense, however, and the opposite is just as true: evolutionary theory as a
complete explanation of the development of life is more plausible to
someone who does not believe in God than to someone who does. Either
both of them are science or neither of them is. If both of them are
scientific hypotheses, the ground for exclusion must be that ID is hopelessly
bad science, or dead science, in Kitcher’s phrase.

12. “Professor Behe remarkably and unmistakably claims that the plausibility of the
argument for ID depends upon the extent to which one believes in the existence of God. As no
evidence in the record indicates that any other scientific proposition’s validity rests on
belief in God, nor is the Court aware of any such scientific propositions, Professor Behe’s
assertion constitutes substantial evidence that in his view, as is commensurate with other
prominent ID leaders, ID is a religious and not a scientific proposition” (Kitzmiller,
at p. 720).

The View from Nowhere

In his book “The View from Nowhere,” Nagel says that we need an explanation of the possibility of objective knowledge that is itself an instance of objective knowledge. How could we have the capacity to know the world through, say, science and mathematics? Natural selection, he says, only explains how creatures with vision or reason will survive, not how vision or reasoning are possible. Natural selection at best says that if we attempt to know the world and we get it wrong, we die without passing on our genes. Thus someone who went up in a moon rocket and ended up floating through space without a food supply would die as a result, and natural selection would select against them. But we seem to have capacities of thought that don’t seem in any way obviously useful for, say, humans in the hunter-gatherer stage. He mentions the general response on behalf of a natural-selection explanation. According to this response, not every feature of an organism has to be separately selected for its adaptive value, and some features can be side effects of others. The large brain that was useful for making tools also gave us the capacity to develop the theory of relativity and prove Godel’s theorem. He thinks there is little or nothing in the way of evidence for this story. However, it is accepted because it is the only candidate for a Darwinian explanation of our reasoning capacities. But rather than adopt a “Darwin or bust” explanation, or a creationist one, he simply says that he has no explanation for this.

What It's Like to be a Bat

Nagel’s persistent tendency to generate headaches for philosophical naturalists began with his essay “What Is it Like to Be a Bat?” in 1974. In that essay he argues that any third-person perspective on a person, such as might be provided by natural science, invariably leaves out the first-person perspective of that person.  This is an argument that was prefigured in C. S. Lewis’s essay “Meditation in a Toolshed,” in which he distinguished between “looking at” and “looking along,” and claimed that a systematic preference of “looking at” as opposed to “looking along,” breaks down when it comes to considering our own thinking, and consistently applied it would give us nothing to think about. 

Is the concept of marriage univocal? C. S. Lewis says no

This is a key C. S. Lewis passage that can easily be applied to the same-sex marriage issue. 
See the discussion here

Before leaving the question of divorce, I should like to distinguish two things which are very often confused. The Christian conception of marriage is one: the other is quite the different question—how far Christians, if they are voters or Members of Parliament, ought to try to force their views of marriage on the rest of the community by embodying them in the divorce laws. A great many people seem to think that if you are a Christian yourself you should try to make divorce difficult for every one. I do not think that. At least I know I should be very angry if the Mohammedans tried to prevent the rest of us from drinking wine.
My own view is that the Churches should frankly recognize that the majority of the British people are not Christian and, therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives. There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the church with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought to be quite sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not.
VR: This, I think, is an effective criticism of the view that there can be one and only one conception of marriage, and the government should enforce that concept.