Monday, January 30, 2012

Why Bother With Philosophy?

Because we can’t help but make choices in those areas. Do we follow one of the world’s established religions, or do we live our lives without religious considerations? How do we decide what’s right and what’s wrong? How do we know the things we know? What is the best way to govern a country?
These questions are hard to escape. We can ignore politics, but politics doesn’t ignore us. We have to decide what is right to do. We claim to know certain things. I once say a bumper sticker that said “Sleep in on Sunday and Save Ten Percent.” Should we do that, or do we live in accordance with the teachings of a religion? Not to decide, is to decide. Our actions speak for us, even when our words do not.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

It's deja vu all over again

It's the Giants and the Patriots in the Super Bowl this time. I think we've seen this one before. Different result this time?

Not such a good day for the Harbaughs.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Replying to the "Who Made God" argument against cosmological arguments

There are a couple of ways in which defenders of the cosmological argument can develop the argument so as to avoid the consequence of God having to also have been made. One way is to use a principle that whatever has a temporal beginning of its existence has to have a cause of its existence. God, as understood in the tradition, never had a beginning, but Big Bang Theory strongly suggests that the physical universe had to have had a beginning. Therefore, the universe had to have had a cause of its existence, but God doesn't need one.

The other way in which defenders of the argument avoid the problem is by saying that what needs a cause are the sorts of things that, if they do exist, might or might not exist. In other words, these things are called contingent beings. Physical things are contingent, but God, if God exist, is the sort of being who, if he exists, couldn't fail to exist. So physical things need causes, but God does not.

These are well-known maneuvers (though they certainly have rebuttals), but people like Dawkins seen to be unaware of them, and that weakens his case for atheism. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Tim McGrew's reply to Drange's Argument from Confusion

A redated post. 

Tim McGrew put a couple of responses up to Drange's two arguments against Christian theism, the argument from confusion and the argument from biblical defects. Since they seem to be buried in the previous post, I thought I would put them front and center here. This is the first one

There are multiple problems with AC. To start with, the plausibility of A2 is inversely proportional to the level of detail packed into “G-beliefs.” If the beliefs about the nature of God are to include the metaphysics of a Chalcedonian formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity, then A2 is obviously false. And something similar goes for the details of the fate of the wicked in the afterlife, for discursive knowledge of the requirements for salvation (as what is important is, presumably, that one meets them, not that one be able to discourse about them), for the precise details of the metaphysics of the eucharist or the mode of baptism (since again, clearly, what is important on the human end is that one in fact be obedient and take the eucharist and be baptized, by whatever mode), and for the details of one’s theory of inspiration, belief in which is nowhere in scripture made a requirement for one’s having a relationship with God—for the good and sufficient reason that the first Christians at Pentecost predate the writing of the New Testament.

In each of these cases, one can back up to a far more minimal conception of what is required. But then it is very difficult to go anywhere with the argument in its subsequent steps. If B can be accepted only in a fairly minimal sense, then it is not at all obvious that D is true. Conversely, in the sense in which D is obviously true, A2 and B are just as obviously false. So the argument gains no traction.

To say this is not to say that it would not be desirable for Christians to have better, fuller knowledge on some of these points; nor is it to say that such knowledge is not available. But the hinge of the argument is the claim in A2 that Christians would need a set of G-beliefs in order to have a personal relationship with God. And Drange gives no good reason to think that this claim is both (a) true and (b) substantive enough to support his subsequent chain of reasoning.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

An old essay of mine on eliminative materialsim

I realize not all of you have access to this online library.

Interestingly enough, in Bill Ramsey's treatment of EM in the Stanford Encyclopedia, he references this article, but not one that I wrote later (but was published earlier), in which I replied to Bill's own critique of the self-refutation objection.

I would be interested in BDK's take on this exchange.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Is there Anything to Discuss?

This links to a post typical of Loftus these days. 

Given this set of responses, do you think real dialogue between believers and nonbelievers is even possible? These claims are, at least here, just asserted. It really does look like a dialogue stopper to me. If you say “I don’t have to answer your objections because anyone who defends the position I’m attacking looks stupid whenever they do that,” then I am afraid the parties are left pretty much with nothing left to say.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

This is what Dawkins says about child abuse

A redated post.

It's my contention that these statements go well beyond the sensible things you might say about religious education, and implies that all religious education is abusive because it subverts the mind (from the "proper" view of atheism). Gosh, what if Duane Gish compared teachers of evolution to pedophiles? Well, he might actually have. I'm not a great reader of Gish.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Privatize the police?

Of course our roads, our police and fire protection, and our educational system are all socialized. They are provided by government, though they could conceivably be privatized. This suggests to me that most people agree, except for the purest of libertarians on the one hand, and communists on the other, everyone agrees that some things should be socialized and others privatized. The question is which things should be socialized, and by what criteria do we decide this? 

A New Year's Resolution for the Mind

From Ken Samples. Or, I suppose, you can take the Debunking Christianity challenge. Or, both at once.

Can intentional content be fixed by causal relations?

A common strategy for providing a physicalist account of intentionality is the attempt to derive intentional content from causal connections. If something has the causal connections of something with a particular intentional content, then, according to this view, it indeed has that intentional content. This Vallicella entry includes a quote by Putnam on the ability of causal connections to fix reference.  

One cannot simply say that the word "cat" refers to cats because
     the word is causally connected to cats, for the word "cat," or
     rather my way of using the word "cat," is causally connected to
     many things. It is true that I wouldn't be using "cat" as I do if
     many other things were different. My present use of the word "cat"
     has a great many causes, not just one. The use of the word "cat" is
     causally connected to cats, but it is also causally connected to
     the behavior of Anglo-Saxon tribes, for example. Just mentioning
     "causal connection" does not explain how one thing can be a
     representation of another thing, as Kant was already aware.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Monday, January 02, 2012

A note from a Christian correspondent concerning CSLDI

A redated post.

DeeJay wrote, his comments are in bold, mine are not:

Hi, I am currently reading your C.S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea. (It is a very great book, by the way.) I have not completed the book yet, but I wanted to pose an issue that came up as I scanned the chapter third chapter, "Assessing Apologetic Arguments." I certainly do agree that it is not correct to refer to one with an opposing belief as being irrational, simply on the grounds that he or she disagrees with you; nevertheless, I do think that Christianity is true and, in my opinion, this requires certain things to follow (although I surely could be mistaken in some or all of what I am about to say).

The fact that something is true entails nothing about the people who believe that it is false. Some things are true that it is irrational to believe. If surprisingly enough, the Arizona Cardinals are the next Super Bowl winners (still a mathematical possibility), it would nevertheless be irrational to believe this.

The Bible suggests that if one is to earnestly seek the Truth then He will find God. Bertrand Russell said that he would tell God that there just wasn't enough evidence to warrant a belief in Him. I find it unlikely that God would respond by saying, "Your right. Tough luck!" If after deep and honest inspection, one is completely rational in holding a nontheist worldview, then I think we could say that that person is justified in holding that viewpoint. But I don't think the Bible would agree with that conclusion.

No one possesses perfect intellectual honesty. However, I find that I am not competent to diagnose bad faith in others (though I might know some things that might cause someone to disbelieve out of bad faith, such as a desire not to be ruled by a greater being). I am just unwilling, on the weight of my arguments, to issue charges of intellectual bad faith.

The Bible refers to the one who in his heart says there is no God as a "fool." Of course, this is not to be misconstrued by interpreting the term using modern-day assumptions.

I think some discussion of the "fool" passage has come up on this blog. I suspect it is not about atheistic philosophers like Russell, but rather refers to those who believe that God exists but do not reckon on God in their lives.

But, given that we interpret this passage (Psalms 14:1) correctly, this still is aligned with the claim that a nontheist is ultimately rational or justified in holding that belief. I say "ultimately" because I would agree that one could be prima facie justified in holding a nontheist worldview, but that under closer analysis (which would follow if one were to earnestly seek the Truth) then this worldview just doesn't hold. I think the following web page (which contains a few quotes from Greg Banhsen) helps explain: <>. I'm sure you're already aware of all of this and I've only recently began to take my faith seriously, so I'm not trying to "educate" you at all here. I'm just expressing one concern I had with part of the third chapter of your book.

Looking at the evidence that I use to support belief in God (insofar as I use evidence), and here "evidence" is being used broadly, including presuppositional evidence, I would say that I do not know that it is so strong that anyone, say, Keith Parsons, if he knew all the arguments I knew, would be a theist. I don't believe reasoning takes place in a vacuum, that it is contextual in nature and rightfully impacts different people differently. People make deep world-view commitments and try to accomodate the information they have based on these, changing world-views relatively infrequently. It does happen (as it did with C. S. Lewis, and in part as it did with Antony Flew) but when it does there are more contributing factors than anyone can put in a book.

My comments up to this point had do with how I think saying one is completely rational or justified (where it is assumed they have honestly sought after the Truth) in holding a nontheistic worldview doesn't completely align with what the Scriptures have to say (although I could be wrong here, and I'm not at all claiming that you're being unbiblical or anything else "ad hominemistic"—not a word I know). I would also add that from personal experience (which has just been in the last year or so when I began taking my faith seriously—I'm 23 by the way) I've found that several nontheists seem to make crucial errors or ad hoc interpretations, which seem to trace back to their unwillingness to give up their belief. I have only debated the cosmological argument (the Kalam version) and the moral argument (or really the existence of objective morals and how that supports a theistic worldview). But, in doing so, I have come across some nontheists making, in my opinion, absurd statements. I have absolutely no problem with someone holding the types of beliefs a nontheist would hold in, say, an argument against objective morality. My issue is when I seem to soundly refute what they have said and they respond either by (intentionally?) misrepresenting my argument or simply with an inadequate response. I admit that this is not the case for all theistic arguments but for some (such as the Kalam cosmological argument, some moral arguments, and the argument from reason, to name a few) the conclusions, while they don't conclusively prove Christianity to be true, seem to rule out any serious possibility of a nontheistic worldview. But even given this, most don't accept the conclusions and still maintain a nontheistic worldview; they reject one of the premises or claim the argument is invalid. For example, some reject that there are objective morals, but when shown the logical conclusions of this worldview (and even in the face of gut intuition) they remain steadfast in their denial. Anyways, I could be wrong here, but I would just find it perplexing that God would send some to hell even though, after earnestly seeking the Truth, they were completely justified in holding their beliefs. I was just wondering what your thoughts on that were.

Yep. Nontheists make lousy arguments. So do theists. It is important to seek out the best, most mature nonbelievers if you really think your experience in debate supports these sorts of conclusions.

One last question. I was recently in a debate about morality and the existence of God. I took the an argument I had seen, modified it, and presented the following argument:

If evil exists, then an objective moral standard exist.
Evil exists.
Therefore, an objective moral standard exist.
If an objective moral standard exist, then there is a way things ought to be.
Therefore, there is a way things ought to be.
If there is a way things ought to be, then there is a design plan for things.
If there is a design plan for things, then there must be a Designer.
Therefore, there must be a Designer.

I talked about this argument recently on this blog when I discussed an argument from Plantinga, and when I posed the question of whether anyone who uses the argument from evil has to be a moral realist. The response seems to be that even if the advocate of the AFE is not a moral realist, the theist must be, and therefore the AFE can be run as a reductio ad absurdum.

As a note, the "ought" in my argument was used in a moral/functional sense (I was attempting to show that the functional sense is inherent in the moral sense), not in a deterministic sense. I noted that from a nontheistic worldview no justification could be given for why evil ought not exist, no matter how one defines evil. Many try to redefine evil in order to maintain the Problem of Evil argument. I noted that from a nontheistic perspective no justification for why evil ought not exist could be given in order to maintain the Problem of Evil as a problem at all—if evil ought to exist then there would be no problem! Many accused the beginning premise, (1) though (3), of my argument of being circular. I maintained that (3) just necessarily followed from (1), but that it was not circular because you can't reason from (3) to (1), where I believe you should be able to do if the argument was circular. Anyhow, I noted that anyone could simply deny premise (1) in order to avoid (3). Nevertheless, could you briefly analyze my argument and if I am making some errors could you clarify where and how, because I don't want to be using some faulty argument.

I would just call your attention to the past entries on this blog where the issue was discussed.