Thursday, October 31, 2013

Parsons replies to me

KP: I am a tad busy right now, so I don't think I will have time for a long point/counterpoint. However, I would like to point out that the argument you are attributing to me is not the one I was trying to make. I am not questioning the legitimacy of all a priori reasoning. I was pointing out that philosophers have often made armchair pronouncements about what must or must not be, which scientists have blithely disregarded and proceeded to do what philosophers said could not be done. Leibniz, for instance, claimed to disprove the possibility of physical atoms. Scientists went right ahead with atomic theory--and a good thing too. Kant held that three dimensional space was an a priori intuition. Physicists have found it useful to disregard that "intuition." Spinoza "proved" that all that is must be. Quantum physics does not give a fig for such determinism. Auguste Comte said that the constitution of the stars would never be known. A year or two later the spectrograph was invented. Kant held that asserting either that the universe had a beginning or did not leads to insoluble intellectual antinomies. Big Bang theorists never cared. Descartes "proved" that the mind must be incorporeal res cogitans. Neuroscience piles success on top of success assuming that we think with our brains.

VR: But of course, the argument here isn't just an armchair speculation, it is a principed argument. In these cases, it has to be clarified that the scientific theory and the philosophical argument really contradicted one another. I know in the case of Kant, it is an open question as to whether the claims are really in conflict. This is the discussion of it in the Stanford Encyclopedia. 
It doesn't seem to me that Kant's position, just described, conflicts with scientific theory. 

Atheists don't get God


Ht: Bob Prokop

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Contradiction, Omnipotence, and Divine Power

John at Secular Outpost wrote: 

"if I have all power, then the simple answer is that I used the power of omnipotence to get it done."
That will not do as an answer if the task is to draw a triangle with 4 sides. Some of us seriously doubt that it makes sense to speak of a person causing things to exist without a body or brain, outside of space and time. To say "God does it by his power of omnipotence" is not useful here. Even omnipotent beings cannot do things which are conceptually impossible.

VR: But doesn't this just question-beggingly delimit just what can cause what? If there is some logical contradiction in God causing something without a body or a brain, that would be one thing. Of course, omnipotence is typically defined as the power to do anything that doesn't involve a contradiction, so the triangle with four sides case would be ruled out by definition.

A priori arguments and materialism

This begins a series of responses to Keith Parsons on the Argument from Reason, found here

Parsons' first critical response to the argument is this: 

First, note that Goetz and Taliafero’s arguments, and practically all arguments against the MTB thesis, are a priori in nature, whereas the arguments for MTB are mostly empirical. Historically, a priori arguments have fared very poorly when opposed to empirical arguments. Philosophers will draw an a priori line in the sand and scientists will gleefully jump over it. The dismal track record of a priori claims against empirical ones provides some reason to doubt the cogency of arguments like those of Goetz and Taliafero.

Are all a priori arguments bad? Really? What about Godel's Incompleteness Theorem, for crying out loud? Or the entire edifice of mathematics, on which the entire operation of science is based? That's ALL a priori. 

It might be helpful to see some examples of what Parsons is talking about. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

How could they have thought that?

 Consider this  speech by Richard Henry Pratt. Explain how such attitudes could have been prevalent in a previous era of American history, yet completely socially unacceptable today. Are we much smarter than those people back them, or is there some other explanation for the disgust that most people would feel towards this kind of attitude?
Or are we so far removed from this perspective??

“We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century — the blindness about which posterity will ask, ‘But how could they have thought that?’ — lies where we have never suspected it.”-- C. S. Lewis. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Bill Vallicella on his comments policy, and mine

Here. I don't know if it's a liberal v. conservative issue at all. I wonder who people who are nasty think they are persuading? I would have thought such people were are just showing everyone what idiots they are.

I still believe in having a free speech zone as far as I possibly can. I'm sensitive to the concern that I might be banning people in a biased manner. I suppose his policy is unbiased as well.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Reppert's Corollary

I'm Skeptical wrote: Neil deGrasse Tyson made an interesting comment about religious people in science. He said that he doesn't care if you have religious views while working in the science lab. But if you think you have the answers based on your religion, and that causes you to not have the curiosity to seek further knowledge on those questions, then he has no need for you in the lab.

Sounds great, so long as you include Reppert's Corollary: But if you think you have the answers based on your atheism, and that causes you to not have the curiosity to seek further knowledge on those questions, then he has no need for you in the lab.

But if you say "Oh, no, that would never be a concern. No one's atheism could cause they to lack the curiosity to  seek further knowledge," then you're a fundamentalist in the perjorative sense.

Friday, October 18, 2013

How to ruin science

Do you actually think there should be (anti) religious tests for scientists. That strikes me as a great way to ruin science, but be my guest.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

C. S. Lewis on How to Avoid God

Avoid silence, avoid solitude, avoid any train of thought that leads off the beaten track. Concentrate on money, sex, status, health and (above all) on your own grievances. Keep the radio on. Live in a crowd. Use plenty of sedation. If you must read books, select them very carefully. But you'd be safer to stick to the papers. You'll find the advertisements helpful; especially those with a sexy or a snobbish appeal.

 "The Seeing Eye" in Christian Reflections (Eeerdmans, 1967), pp. 168-167:

Bill Vallicella has some other ways in which we can avoid God. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Is Richard Dawkins a science denier?

I have covered this topic before, and used this link before, but it occurs to me that, given Dawkins' statements about the effects of religion on the one hand, and child sexual abuse on the other, compared to hard scientific data, that is the only conclusion anyone can come to.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Amalekite Ban and the Doctrine of Individual Responsibility

Here is a discussion critical of my own difficulties with believing that God ordered a ban on the
Amalekites, by Turretinfan. 

Here is the critical passage: 

There is absolutely no question that the Lord commanded the slaughter of the Amalekites.  Moreover, the explicitly stated reason for this slaughter is that they attacked Israel during the Exodus.  That does not mean that God did not have other reasons.

And he goes on to say: 

But Victor does not need to speculate.  God gives a reason.  The reason is retaliation for prior treachery.  Of course, the sucklings were not a part of that treachery, but the crime was performed by the nation and they are in a federal relationship with respect to the nation.  Absent God’s mercy, the judgment on the nation extends even to those who had no personal part in it.  Indeed, given the lapse of time between the Exodus and Saul, it seems unlikely that there were any alive in Amalek who had been in any personal way involved in the attack on Israel.  So, it is not only the sucklings who are receiving judgment from God for the sins of their fathers, but also the adults of Amalek as well.

One of Victor’s problems is that he is attempting to impose an external moral framework on the situation, instead of trying to extract a moral framework from the situation.  What God does is right.  That should be the premise.  Examples like the commanded destruction of the children of Amalek teach us about the heritability of guilt for sin. 

What people find shocking in the Amalekite case is that descendants are being given a kind of "national death penalty" for actions their remote ancestors did which the individuals involved had nothing to do with. We are inclined to suppose that children are innocent, and as such can't be blamed for actions their ancestors performed. We moderns are committed to the doctrine of individual responsibility, and from that standpoint the ban on the Amalekites does indeed seem unjust. If we can swallow the idea that someone can deserve the death penalty for the actions of an ancestor, then the Amalekite ban ceases to be a problem. 

However, the Doctrine of Individual Responsibility has an important biblical foundation, in Ezekiel 18 (NIV): 

The One Who Sins Will Die
1The word of the Lord came to me: 2“What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel:
“ ‘The parents eat sour grapes,
and the children’s teeth are set on edge’?
3“As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel. 4For everyone belongs to me, the parent as well as the child—both alike belong to me. The one who sins is the one who will die.
5“Suppose there is a righteous man
who does what is just and right.
6He does not eat at the mountain shrines
or look to the idols of Israel.
He does not defile his neighbor’s wife
or have sexual relations with a woman during her period.
7He does not oppress anyone,
but returns what he took in pledge for a loan.
He does not commit robbery
but gives his food to the hungry
and provides clothing for the naked.
8He does not lend to them at interest
or take a profit from them.
He withholds his hand from doing wrong
and judges fairly between two parties.
9He follows my decrees
and faithfully keeps my laws.
That man is righteous;
he will surely live,
declares the Sovereign Lord.
10“Suppose he has a violent son, who sheds blood or does any of these other thingsa 11(though the father has done none of them):
“He eats at the mountain shrines.
He defiles his neighbor’s wife.
12He oppresses the poor and needy.
He commits robbery.
He does not return what he took in pledge.
He looks to the idols.
He does detestable things.
13He lends at interest and takes a profit.
Will such a man live? He will not! Because he has done all these detestable things, he is to be put to death; his blood will be on his own head.
14“But suppose this son has a son who sees all the sins his father commits, and though he sees them, he does not do such things:
15“He does not eat at the mountain shrines
or look to the idols of Israel.
He does not defile his neighbor’s wife.
16He does not oppress anyone
or require a pledge for a loan.
He does not commit robbery
but gives his food to the hungry
and provides clothing for the naked.
17He withholds his hand from mistreating the poor
and takes no interest or profit from them.
He keeps my laws and follows my decrees.
He will not die for his father’s sin; he will surely live. 18But his father will die for his own sin, because he practiced extortion, robbed his brother and did what was wrong among his people.
19“Yet you ask, ‘Why does the son not share the guilt of his father?’ Since the son has done what is just and right and has been careful to keep all my decrees, he will surely live. 20The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.
21“But if a wicked person turns away from all the sins they have committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, that person will surely live; they will not die. 22None of the offenses they have committed will be remembered against them. Because of the righteous things they have done, they will live.23Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?
24“But if a righteous person turns from their righteousness and commits sin and does the same detestable things the wicked person does, will they live? None of the righteous things that person has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness they are guilty of and because of the sins they have committed, they will die.
25“Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Hear, you Israelites: Is my way unjust? Is it not your ways that are unjust? 26If a righteous person turns from their righteousness and commits sin, they will die for it; because of the sin they have committed they will die. 27But if a wicked person turns away from the wickedness they have committed and does what is just and right, they will save their life. 28Because they consider all the offenses they have committed and turn away from them, that person will surely live; they will not die. 29Yet the Israelites say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Are my ways unjust, people of Israel? Is it not your ways that are unjust?
30“Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the SovereignLord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. 31Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? 32For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!

So I am inclined to think that saying "Just follow the Bible and give up the Doctrine of Individual Responsibility" is a bit of an oversimplified answer. 

Dangit! This nutty mythicist is giving us respectable mythicists a bad name

From Richard Carrier. Here. 

HT: Steve Hays

Friday, October 11, 2013

Who created God?

As for who created God,  here  is an answer from a Catholic website. 

If something came into existence at a certain point in time—that is, if it had a beginning—then there needs to be a cause, an explanation, for why it came to be. But if something exists outside of time—like God—then it does not need an explanation for its beginning, because it does not have one.
The earth, indeed the universe, had a beginning point in time, and this is something that both the Big Bang Theory and the Book of Genesis agree on. 

Lead-footed literalism

If you are going for what I would call lead-footed literalism about the Bible, then there is going to be a clash between science and religion. But I'm not talking about Darwin or evolution, I am talking about simple astronomy. If, based on the Bible, you conclude that you have a comprehensive genealogy, then you can count back from a well established date, such as the time of King David, and count years back until you get to a beginning of the universe in approximately 4004 B. C. At least that is what one famous archbishop concluded. You see, it was the heavens and the earth that was created, Adam came into existence on Day 6, so if you count back from David to Adam, that's about what it is going to be. And since it was the heavens and the earth that were created at that point, then that would mean that the universe is 6017 years old. If that were true, then we should only be able to see stars 6017 light years away, since light from stars further away would have had to travel to far to be seen from earth. So, if you are trying to believe THAT, then Darwin's theory of evolution is the least of your worries. 

Unfortunately for Christianity-bashers, this kind of literalism was never the norm within the Christian Church. It's not as if everybody was a lead-footed literalist until science came along and pointed all of these problems out. Quite the contrary, Christians going all the way back to Augustine have avoided this kind of literalism. See here. 

The latest chapter in the "Jesus Myth" saga


Does anyone find this stuff boring besides me?

Homosexuality and choice

I was born heterosexual, but there is nothing about my heterosexuality that requires that I perform heterosexual sex acts at any time during my lifetime. I can either engage in heterosexual behavior or not. And the same applies to homosexuals.

So, even if a person has no choice about whether or not to be gay (I must say that is certainly true in my case, and I am inclined to think that it is true in the case of at least some homosexuals), it is possible to freely choose or not choose to engage in homosexual behavior.

While sexual orientation is many cases not a choice, it has to be a choice sometimes, otherwise there would be no bisexuals.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

A secular argument against same sex marriage


The End of Science

Here is a case made for putting an end to science, based on atomic fears. This is the song.

You don't normally hear an actual attack on science itself.