Monday, August 29, 2016

Dawkins' answer to someone who has experienced God: You hallucinated


Is Science in Trouble?

Science, pride of modernity, our one source of objective knowledge, is in deep trouble. Stoked by fifty years of growing public investments, scientists are more productive than ever, pouring out millions of articles in thousands of journals covering an ever-expanding array of fields and phenomena. But much of this supposed knowledge is turning out to be contestable, unreliable, unusable, or flat-out wrong. From metastatic cancer to climate change to growth economics to dietary standards, science that is supposed to yield clarity and solutions is in many instances leading instead to contradiction, controversy, and confusion. Along the way it is also undermining the four-hundred-year-old idea that wise human action can be built on a foundation of independently verifiable truths. Science is trapped in a self-destructive vortex; to escape, it will have to abdicate its protected political status and embrace both its limits and its accountability to the rest of society.


Friday, August 26, 2016

Relativism about evolution?

People have different beliefs about a lot of things, but in many of those cases this does not undermine the idea that there is an objective truth about it. For example, on creation and evolution, no one would suggest, on either side, that evolution is true is if you really believe it, but if you are a creationist, then that is true for you.

The colonies started with state religions


Thursday, August 25, 2016

Craig on defining atheism


Why fact and opinion is a false dilemma

Let me rant and rave a little bit about the “fact and opinion” exercises that are given to school children. (Here, I am operating in the tradition of C. S. Lewis, who in the Abolition of Man complained about the implied positivist philosophy that he thought to be smuggled into students’ English textbooks). This “fact and opinion” dichotomy strikes me as being intellectual rat poison. According to the school exercise, A fact is what can be proven true or false and can be true for everyone, an opinion is a personal feeling and is not necessarily true for everyone.

This seems, pretty clearly, to commit the fallacy of the false dilemma. There can be a fact of the matter as to whether something is true or false, without our being able to prove it true or false. There can be a “fact of the matter” about something, and at the same time there can be more or less reasonable opinions about it. In fact, the most reasonable opinion about something may turn out to be false, nevertheless it is the most reasonable opinion. Consider Jack the Ripper. There are a lot of opinions about what Jack the Ripper was, but there is also a fact as to who committed those murders. Is opinion a) something purely subjective, or b) something about which there is a truth, but uncertainty amongst human beings as to what the truth is? I frequently use that term of b, but very often people mean a. This gets really difficult when I ask students to write papers and want me to give me their reflective opinions, supported by argument. If he fact-opinion dichotomy is exhaustive, then I am asking for an impossibility.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Baseball and sharing your religious beliefs online

Yes, these two are related, according to Warner Wallace.

"If you’ve ever interacted with hostile atheists online, you’ve probably been frustrated at times and wondered if your efforts were worthwhile at all. At times like this I try to remind myself of the three reasons anyone “shuns” a truth claim; many of us are committed to our position for other than rational evidential reasons (that’s true for everyone, including Christians). It’s important to see your efforts to reach the opposed as a baseball game rather than a tennis match. The goal isn’t points, it’s advancing people around the bases. You’re not alone on the court, you’ve got help on the field. I’m not always trying to hit home runs with people who disagree with me. Instead, I am simply trying to be faithful to my Master, reflect his image, and leave people with something to think about."

The Last Post by Thomist Blogger Doug Benscoter

Who passed away last May at 30. Sad, I still remember when my good friend and Thomist Joe Sheffer passed away at 36, in 1989.  This is his argument.

Among other arguments I've defended in favor of classical theism, I have also defended a Thomistic modal argument inspired by Robert Maydole.  Let's first define two terms:

Something necessary is something that exists and cannot possibly-not exist.

Something contingent is something that possibly exists and possibly does not exist.  Contingency should not be conflated with "dependency."

Here is the argument:

1. Something presently exists. (Premise)
2. Something cannot come from nothing. (Premise)
3. Either everything that exists is contingent, or else there exists at least one necessary entity N. (Definition)
4. Necessarily, there was never a past time at which nothing existed. (From 1 and 2)
5. Possibly, there was a past time at which nothing contingent existed. (Premise)
6. Therefore, a necessary entity N exists. (From 4 and 5)

Consider this reductio ad absurdum (reduction to the absurd):

7. N does not exist. (Assumption)
8. Possibly, there was a past time at which nothing existed. (From 3, 5, and 7)
9. (8) contradicts (4).
10. Therefore, (7) is false. (From 8 and the law of non-contradiction)

Monday, August 22, 2016

A Video on The Ontological Argument

I have never thought well of the OA, and I remember writing a comment on an Ontological Argument paper called "How to be an atheist" outlining several rebuttals. Nonetheless, here. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Earth to Lawrence Krauss

From Manuel Alfonseca, here. 

Second: out of nothing one can create nothing.Nothing does not exist, as we know since the time of Parmenides. As usual, nothing is confused with the vacuum. A vacuum is not nothing, because it has several qualities (space, time, energy, existence) that nothing does not have.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The literal meaning of the text

Defending Scripture Literally.

All these years later, I'm learning that understanding the literal meaning of the Bible is a more nuanced adventure than my college friends and I imagined. We'd been blithely unaware that there is more than one genre in the Bible, or that literary context profoundly matters to meaning. We didn't understand that when we read ancient Hebrew prose poems (like Genesis 1), wisdom literature (like Proverbs), or apocalyptic literature (like Revelation) as if they were science textbooks, we were actually obscuring their meaning.

If we say God is our father, does even the most fundy of fundies mean that God literally fathered us? 

The utilitarian argument for religious persecution

Some people think that getting religion wrong will result in more people going to hell. We want to save people from hell, and killing their body is not as bad as letting them teach religious beliefs that will get people damned. So, in the interest of the greatest good for the greatest number, religious killing is justified.

What is the best rebuttal to this argument?

Monday, August 15, 2016

Is political candor a vice?

I am half expecting a politician to come out and say that political candor is a vice, not a virtue, and that we should vote for him because while he is a liar, at least he is going to be honest about it.

Could such a candidate be elected?

Is a literal Adam and Eve credible?


An English file can be downloaded from here.

Politifact Truthfulness Charts for Clinton and Trump



Saturday, August 13, 2016

The abortion dilemma

Some people think that no abortions are morally acceptable, and some think that most all abortions are morally acceptable. But many people think that some are, and some are not, acceptable, and this likely represents the majority of people.

If we conclude that some abortions are moral and others are not, then it may not be feasible to determine judicially which are which in time to decide whether to abort.

Take, for example the case of rape, the most popular abortion justification. The justice system sometimes takes years to determine whether a woman was raped or not, and he said she said scenarios abound. But pregnancy takes nine months. So we are stuck with putting trimester restrictions on abortions, outlawing them, or pretty much allowing all of them.

All of which suggests that we all too often get our morality from a law book, and that this is a mistake.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

There is no God, therefore there is no morality, according to Marks


How I arrived at this conclusion is the subject of a book I have written during this recent period (tentatively titled Bad Faith: A Personal Memoir on Atheism, Amorality, and Animals). The long and the short of it is that I became convinced that atheism implies amorality; and since I am an atheist, I must therefore embrace amorality. I call the premise of this argument ‘hard atheism’ because it is analogous to a thesis in philosophy known as ‘hard determinism.’ The latter holds that if metaphysical determinism is true, then there is no such thing as free will. Thus, a ‘soft determinist’ believes that, even if your reading of this column right now has followed by causal necessity from the Big Bang fourteen billion years ago, you can still meaningfully be said to have freely chosen to read it. Analogously, a ‘soft atheist’ would hold that one could be an atheist and still believe in morality. And indeed, the whole crop of ‘New Atheists’ (see Issue 78) are softies of this kind. So was I, until I experienced my shocking epiphany that the religious fundamentalists are correct: without God, there is no morality. But they are incorrect, I still believe, about there being a God. Hence, I believe, there is no morality.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Galen Strawson on the Hard Problem of Matter


The real hard problem is matter, not mind.

Joe Hinman turns Derrida on his head

Here is an argument Joe Hinman sent me, with some revisions by me. 

1. Any rational, coherent, and meaningful view of the universe must of necessity presuppose organizing principles (Ops)
2. OP's can be summed up in the TS, the transcendental signified. 
3. Philosophical Naturalism rejects the transcendental signed.
4. Therefore, Philosophical Naturalism fails to provide a rational, coherent, and meaningful view of the universe.
5. Minds organize and communicate meaning

6. Therefore universal mind, offers the best understanding of TS

7Concept of God unites TS with universal mind therefore offers best explanation
rational, coherent , and  meaningful view. 

The concept of the Transcendental Signified is Derridean, and requires some explanation, which is provided here. 

I'm not a Derrida expert, but this seems interesting. 

Monday, August 08, 2016

Litmus test for conservatism

The litmus test for whether an economic proposal is conservative is the extent to which it is an example of this statement by Reagan. 

In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.

I heard nothing of the sort in Trump's speech. Did you? 

The withering of vice and the sexual revolution

Here.  Is the gay marriage movement an extension of the civil rights movement, or the sexual revolution?

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Why even opponents of homosexuality should oppose sodomy laws

Suppose we assume, as conservative Christians and Muslims do, that homosexual activity is morally wrong. One could believe this, and at the same time oppose sodomy laws,  because it would empower government to snoop on everyone’s sex lives to make sure people aren’t having sex with same-sex partners. The question of moral wrongness is not sufficient to justify the state in intervening and preventing or punishing the wrongness. It is a feature of freedom that we sometimes have to give people the right to do what is wrong.
Hence it does not follow from wrongness that there should be a law against it. 

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Lewis's The Inner Ring

What is it that makes good people do bad things? Religion? Lewis has a different answer.