Thursday, December 31, 2009

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Bees and perspectives

An old DI2 post. 

BDK: Afterthought: it would be great for antinaturalists to answer Bennett's question. In general, your answer to this question starkly reveals your philosophical stripes. This is all about propositional thought and the like, truth, reference and all that.

As for what you'd have to add to make bees conscious, or whether bees are already conscious, I have no strong opinion. I think Dretske believes they are conscious. I am agnostic. Do qualia precede propositional contents in evolution? I tend to think so, but am not sure: even leeches might feel little flashes of pains and excitements.

VR: I think what is needed is the perspective of an agent who sees certain things as the case, and who is introspectively aware of what it means when it says something.

Example: I enter a conversation and misuse a word consistently. The community of language speakers makes a word mean one thing, but I meant something else, and in spite of the sniggers that I got from everyone, I think to myself "But I was using it to mean that." I can recognize two words that sound the same but mean different things, and I can identify two words that mean that same but sound different.

Add to this the perception of necessary relationships that obtain amongst proposition. We have to be people who exist at particular places and times who know that some things exist regardless of place or time. And I see difficulty with that so long as what gives us pieces of information are temporally locatable physical brains and causal connection from those brains to particular states of affairs in the world.

Now, could we solve these problems naturalistically if we could just solve the hard problem of consciousness naturalistically? My answer is that raw feels by themselves aren't going to solve it; we're going to need a connection between consciousness and the mental states involved in rationality.

Why Bill Vallicella is such a Hot Ticket on the Party Circuit

I was wondering if Bill had seen that he had been referenced in Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar, Understanding Philosophy through Jokes. He had, as you can tell from the link.

This is the reference:

Contemporary philosopher William Vallicella writes, "Metaphilosophy is the philosophy of philosophy. It is itself a branch of philosophy, unlike the philosophy of science, which is not a branch of science, or the philosophy of religion, which is not a branch of religion."
It is statements like this that have made Vallicella such a hot ticket on the party circuit.

Well, not only did I get this book in my Christmas stocking, but it's been assigned for one of the courses I'm teaching!

If only I could become that famous.

Picturing hell

What picture of hell makes the most sense to you? This is an interesting article by a Melbourne philosophy student.

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Grief Observed

A redated post. 

I knew C. S. Lewis was popular, but I was surprised to find 155 reviews of A Grief Observed on Amazon, almost all very favorable, and I did not see anyone try to argue that he fatally compromised his apologetics in this book based on his own grief experience.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Deep down inside, you atheists really believe in God

According to a couple of Muslim fatwas. Have these guys been reading van Til and Bahnsen? Reformed Islamic apologetics?

Some discussion of methodological naturalism on Shallit's blog

Some interesting points in this discussion. First, it looks as if these people are ready to use words like "natural" and "supernatural' as if they, and everyone else, knew what those terms meant. I am not at all sure that we are entitled to assume this. Shallit assumes that if science is naturalistic, it won't make any references to gods of any kinds. Why? What is it about gods that makes them supernatural?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Does Climategate support the Expelled argument?

Stephen Meyer thinks it does. As much as I'd like to think otherwise, I am not at all sure that a couple of episodes of Scientists Behaving Badly is enough to support the relevant charges in either controversy.

Thought experiments

What is the role of thought experiments in philosophy and science? This is the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on the subject.

Golubev on experimenting with the Dragon

Probably the Dragon expert of longest standing and authority. This is something of an update on his analysis of the Karpov-Gik game.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Singer-Posner debate on animal rights

Refuting Calvinism on the cheap

Gosh I wish it were this easy to refute Calvinism. Here is a story I heard when I was growing up. 

The two preachers had agreed to exchange churches one day. Lyman Beecher, father of the famous Henry Ward Beecher, was to speak in a fellow-minister’s church, and the other minister was to speak in Beecher’s church. The other minister was a stanch believer in predestination. The day came when they were to exchange pulpits, and each set out for the other’s church. Midway they met.

They stopped to pass the time of day, and as Lyman Beecher began to move on, the other Preacher,
unwilling to let such an opportunity pass, said, “Dr. Beecher, I wish to call your attention to the fact that before creation God ordained that you were to preach in my church, and I in yours, on this particular day.”

“Is that so?” glared Dr. Beecher, “Then I won’t preach in your church today,” and spinning his horse
around, he rode to his own church and preached in it that morning. He believed that man has the power of choice and though God foreknows He does not force anyone.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Gettier Problem

This is the essay in which Gettier introduced the Gettier problem. He was just trying to get tenure, I understand.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Still Another Attack on "You are entitled to your opinion."

Which has an attack on that "fact and opinion" crap that kids get taught in grade school.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Kelly Clark and Brian Leiter on anti-theistic bias in philosophy departments

Towards the end of this thread, Christian philosopher Kelly Clark raises the question of anti-theistic bias in getting philosophy jobs. This is of interest to me, because I never got a permanent philosophy position back when I was job-hunting. I think it didn't help me, back then, to have my CV covered with paper presentations at the Society of Christian Philosophers and references to C. S. Lewis in those presented papers and in my dissertation description. (Of course, every person's job search experience is different, and many factors are involved). If I had it to do over again, I probably would have done it with a lower Christian profile.

Many secular philosophy departments have plenty of people in them who not only think theism is false, but think of it as a philosophical nonstarter and evidence of some sort of failing in a philosopher. They believe, with Russell, that it is not only false, it does harm. They might recognize that Plantinga is really, really smart, but kind of weird because he's a theist. Do they have an obligation to help to create an open intellectual atmosphere in their universities?

People like Dawkins walk a fine line. They feel they ought to talk about religion, yet long for the day when it can be dismissed with a horse laugh.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Global Warming and Probability

BDK mentioned Pascal's Wager in the context of global warming. I think it raises an interesting point.

Suppose the evidence really supports the claim that there is a 50% likelihood that some sort of global catastophe will happen if we don't control greenhouse gas emissions. (I take it this is a vastly weaker clam than what the scientists are actually claiming.) If we change to "green" energies, we eliminate our dependence on foreign oil, which effectively prevents us from being taken seriously as a benefactor in the Middle East. It looks as if a shift to different energy sources might encourage capitalism of a healthy sort, with many energy providers competing to do it the best, as opposed to the unhealthy capitalism where the primary energy sources are controlled by a few huge companies. Those are my initial reflections on the situation, and I am sure there are many other considerations.

Now, I suspect that conservatives are going to give us a very different cost-benefit analysis, and I would like to see what that looks like.

How likely does global tragedy caused by global warming have to be in order for it to be in our interest to try to prevent it. What if there's a 10% chance that things will go horribly wrong because of climate change? Then should we do something, or not?

Who has the burden of proof here, the GW skeptic or the GW defender? On the face of things, I say the skeptic. Can anyone prove me wrong?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Wesley's argument that preaching is vain if Calvinism is true

John Wesley's classic statement of the objection goes like this:

But if this be so, then is all preaching vain? It is needless to them that are elected; for they, whether with preaching or without, will infallibly be saved. Therefore, the end of preaching -- to save should -- is void with regard to them; and it is useless to them that are not elected, for they cannot possibly be saved: They, whether with preaching or without, will infallibly be damned. The end of preaching is therefore void with regard to them likewise; so that in either case our preaching is vain, as you hearing is also vain.

The main thrust of my response to this objection is to argue that while Wesley's argument gets at something that seems to me correct, for in the sense that I don't think the counterfactual relationship between preaching and salvation quite works the same way as it might under Arminianism, but nevertheless the Calvinists have two motivations for evangelism intact: the obedience to command motivation, and the instrumental role motivation.

So I think I've actually done more to undercut Wesley's argument than I have to help it. Sorry, JW, gotta follow the argument where it leads.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

AP's verdict on the Global Warming science

Lots of ugly stuff, but no fraud.

What do you guys think of this?

Why I considered determinism unnatural

What did I have in mind when I said that determinism is an unnatural belief? . Looking at what I was trying to say when I said it, it looks to me as if I wasn't thinking about naive student attitudes toward free will, but simply the fact that in the course of decision-making there are different possibilities that are open to us, one of which we select. Further, it does seem that we consider both choices that we make to be genuine possibilities. But if determinism is true, then the alternative possibility wasn't a real possibility after all. What we did was determined. It's hard to imagine making a difficult decision and asking "Hmmm. What was I predestined to do in this situation?"

I was thinking about the idea we seem to presume that there are possible futures depending on how we act, that become more or less likely depending on what we do. If God has predestined everything, and is determined to do so based on his own nature, then it looks as if there are no possible worlds except alpha.

There does seem to be an at least an illusion of free will when we deliberate and decide. It could be just that, an illusion.

Calvinism, salvation, and possible worlds

My position on the role of what motivation we might have to evangelize if Calvinism is true has, admittedly, changed a bit since I first blogged about it.

My position is this:

1) Calvinists certainly have the motivation to evangelize based on the Great Commission.

2) Calvinists have the motivation to evangelize based on a desire they might have to play an instrumental role in someone's coming to receive saving faith. (This is what I had left out.)

3) It is not clear that Calvinists have the motivation to evanglize based on the truth of certain subjunctive-conditional claims concerning what the oucome will be if they do or do not evanglize.

The reason is that, given what God has predestined, the future is closed. Suppose Smith witnesses to Jones and Jones is saved. Smith, however, has struggled with getting up the courage to witness to Jones. He wonders if it will make a difference as to Jones' salvation whether he preaches or not. He knows that his preaching will not cause Jones to become one of the elect, since the elect were chosen unconditionally before the foundation of the world. Can the statement "If I don't witness to Jones, Jones won't be saved" be true if in fact Jones has either been unconditionally elected or unconditionally reprobated. What would make such a statement true or false? Any world in which Jones doesn't witness is a world which God did not predestine. Asking the counterfactual question is assume that there are other possible worlds, but there are no other possible worlds. Ultimately what you are asking if you are asking the counterfactual question of "What would have happened if I had not witnessed" is to ask "What would God have predestined to have happen to Jones if God hadn't predestined that I should witness to him?" I can't see how to make sense of the statement "In the nearest possible world in which I don't witness to Jones, Jones is reprobated." Is there even such a possible world?

It seems an Arminian can say that by sharing the Gospel with Jones, he makes it more likely that the actual world is a world in which Jones is saved. If Calvinism is true, I don't see how you can say that.

Should Calvinists care? I said earlier that Calvinists need not see this as a problem for their position. When I am making an argument against Calvinism, I will tell you.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Standard Materialism, Non-Standard Materialism, and Libertarian Free Will

I think there are standard and non-standard forms of materialism. I consider a form of materialism to be standard if it holds to three theses.

1) Reality at the basic level is mechanistic. There is no teleology, no intentionality, no subjectivity, and no normativity at the basic level.

2) The basic level (typically called physics) is causally closed.

3) Higher level states (such as the biological, the mental, or the sociological) supervene upon the physical. Given the physical, the higher level states must be exactly as they are.

It seems to me that if you accept this picture, nothing like libertarian free will can be coherently maintained. Now if one is trying to call oneself a materialist and reject part of this picture, in other words, if one adopts a non-standard form of materialism, in virtue of the fact that, say, everything in the mind has a spatial location, then you might be able to find room for libertarian free will.

Which always makes we wonder about Christians, like van Inwagen, who call themselves materialists. Do they really conform to the standard definition of materialism?

Moral Relativism and Global Warming

There is a raging debate going on about global warming. Sarah Palin and those who agree with her think the evidence has been trumped up and there is no good reason to believe in man-made global warming. Al Gore thinks the evidence for man-made global warming is clear and decisive.

I think we can all agree, whatever side we are on in this, that one of these groups of people has to be wrong. So why do people think that it follows from a diversity of moral opinions that moral judgments are neither true nor false?

What my master's thesis was about

Back in 1984, I wrote a master's thesis under Dr. Michael White at Arizona State University entitled "Moral Theories and Free Will."

I defended the claim that on the assumption that what we are utilitarians looking for ways to modify behavior, compatibilism makes some sense. Even if determinism is true, we might want to cause people to act in certain ways, and we might want to figure out who brought about an action, so that we can change a pattern of behavior. Thus, punishing criminals for various utilitarian reasons makes sense even if determinism is true.

However, if we are retributive deontologists, then compatibilism makes no sense. If we are not trying to modify behavior, but are asking whether someone is really to blame for what they did, then compatibilism doesn't make sense. The ultimate causes of our actions are beyond our control, and we are not responsible for those causes.

If you read many compatibilists, such as Moritz Schlick, and J. J. C. Smart (these were two that I mentioned in my thesis), you find that they have a concept of responsibility that is quite different from the concept of responsibility that is involved when we say that a person deserves to be punished in hell (or even in prison) for what he or she has done.

Is Determinism an Unnatural Belief?

Steve Hays has argued against my claim that determinism is an unnatural belief by appealing to a poll of professional philosophers. I replied as follows:

You go to professional philosophers to determine whether determinism is a natural belief? People who have had naturalistic determinism pounded into their brains from day one in grad school? You're kidding, aren't you.

Most of these people think there is no libertarian free will, because they think the mind is the brain, and since physical particles can't have libertarian free will, neither can we.

J. P. Moreland has an essay in Philosophy and Theology (1997) entitled "Naturalism and Libertarian Agency" in which he argues, quite successfully in my view, that libertarian agency simply doesn't fit at all well with a naturalistic world view.

The kind of compatibilism most philosophers they espouse is the kind espoused by people like Daniel Dennett in Elbow Room (MIT, 1984). That is, it's compatible with holding people responsible for their actions in a way that is aimed at modifying their behavior. I find out who's responsible for the action so that I can decide whose behavior I need to correct., or reinforce as the case might be. The kind of a free will that might justify eternal punishment is, on Dennett's view, not a variety of free will worth wanting.

The idea that we are, in some absolute sense, guilty before God for the things we have done, and liable to everlasting punishment for such misdeeds even though our actions are determined, ultimately, by divine choice, is a thesis that people like Dennett would find simply horrifying and barbaric.

You have to reconcile determinism with a very strong form of moral responsibility that most secular compatibilists would reject. You might want to try polling those philosophers on whether they accept the idea of retribution, period, much less eternal retribution.

As for Christian philosophers, well, I've seen discussions of foreknowledge and free will in which the Calvinistic alternative was not even considered. It was pretty much the Molinists and some other libertarians against the open theists.

The hoi polloi, as Vytautas would call them (including introductory philosophy students), invariably accept libertarian free will. They have to be exposed either to naturalism or to Calvinism before they will even consider the idea that our actions are all determined.

I think belief in free will comes naturally to us, while soft determinism seems really bizarre when most people first hear about it. I remember explaining it to a chess friend of mine who said "Didn't you just contradict yourself?" Of course, compatibilism might be true for all that. But most compatibilists are compatibilists because they don't want to bail out of moral responsibility, but can't accept libertarianism in virtue of their overall philosophical commitment to naturalism.

Friday, December 04, 2009

The Nicene Creed

The Church's great affirmation of the deity of Christ.

We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried, and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father. And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end.
And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets. And we believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. And we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

A link to some C. S. Lewis recordings

Some articles on the historicity of the birth narratives

Just in time for Christmas, a thoughtful look at the historical reliability of the infancy narratives.

The virgin birth of Jesus is an insult to modern intelligence and should be abandoned. In addition, it is a pernicious doctrine that denigrates women.

Robert Funk, founder of the Jesus Seminar. Mark Roberts begs to differ.

Is atheism pretty obviously true?

Stephen Law thinks so. Wonder what his refutation of the AFR is?

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

More depressing than you could have imagined: Feser's response to Rosenberg on Naturalism

In this piece by Ed Feser, he responds to a piece by Alex Rosenberg in which Rosenberg details some of the "depressing" nihilistic implications of naturalism, but claims that these must be accepted because the onward march of science shows that naturalism is true. Feser claim that these "depressing" conclusions on the basis of naturalism actually show the incoherence of naturalism.

Here are some of the great moments in the history of science.

1) Archimedes inferred from the principle of bouyancy that the King's crown wasn't solid gold.
2) Galileo calculates the orbits of the planets and shows that Copernicus was right, and the earth really does move.
3) Newton develops calculus and infers the three laws of motion.
4) Darwin infers natural selection as the explanation for different beak sizes in the finches on the Galapagos islands.
5) Einstein develops his Theory of Relativity, based on Maxwell's equations.

Yes, science marches on. But if there no propositional mental states that cause other propositional mental states, none of the above statements are literally true! If it is a consequence of naturalism, and I think it is, that none of these statements is literally true, then these events don't support the case for naturalism, they undercut it decisively.

Youtube Audio of C. S. Lewis on Charles Williams

HT: Bob Prokop

Calvinism and the two motivations for evangelism

Arminians like John Wesley have sometimes charged that Calvinism undercuts the motivation to evangelize. I think this charge is half true. It seems to me that evangelism is motivated both by Christ's command to evangelize, and out desire that others be saved.

I see the point of evangelism based on obeying a commandment, predestination or no predestination. What I don't see is why our evangelizing makes any difference with respect to the outcome. If I preach the gospel, then God, before the foundation of the world, sovereignly chose that I would do so. If I fail to preach, then God, before the foundation of the world, sovereignly chose that I would not preach. So my choice affects what God sovereignly chose before the foundation of the world? That's called Molinism, and it's a version of Arminianism.

So I think the motivation based on outcome is dissipated once you accept the idea that you can't change who is and who is not elect. Thank God I'm not a Calvinist, so I can accept the outcome-based motivation as well as the command-based motivation.

Calvinists need not see this as a problem for their view.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Is the God of Sikhism personal?

This turns out to be a difficult question. I looked at Wikipedia and it said

One God: - There is only one God who has infinite qualities and names (pantheism). God is Creator and Sustainer - all that you see around you is His creation. He is everywhere, in everything. He is without birth or death, and has existed before Creation and will exist forever. Sikhism does not acknowledge an anthropomorphic God. This is true to the extent than one can interpret Him as the Universe Itself. Sikhism also does not acknowledge the belief of a Personal God, as does Christianity. Instead, God is usually interpreted as being unfathomable, yet not unknowable.

The Sikh Missionary Society's website said:

Sikhism believes in a personal God. The devotee is compared to a bride yearning for union with her husband and waiting on his pleasure to do his bidding. 

Can anyone who knows a litte more about this than I do shed some light on this?  

Monday, November 30, 2009

Gosh. Is my argument really that strong???

The theist in this debate presents the argument from reason, and the atheist.....forfeits!

Liar, Lunatic, Lord, or just a Colorful Teacher of World Religions

Per Jason Pratt's request, I have redated this post on the trilemma.

I've been reading John Beversluis's analysis of the trilemma, and his treatment of the issue led me to advance this little thought experiment.

Suppose I were to come to my class in, oh, say, world religion, and I were to say. "This course is about religion, and we will be talking about God a lot. And you guys are all in luck. I, your teacher, Dr. Reppert, am God Himself, come to earth in incarnate form." Now my students would probably think this was a big practical joke. But now suppose after a week or two I catch a student cheating and say, "Not only do you flunk this class, but unless you repent you are going to hear from me when I return for the day of judgment." Suppose some people were to go to the dean and ask about what is up with Reppert's class. The teacher were then to say "Yes, I realize this guy thinks he's God, so of course he's delusional about that. But many students have told me that this just makes the class more interesting. He's a good teacher, and a fair grader. There's no reason to drop the course, or ask for a refund for your tuition, still less to contact the men in the white coats. Just stay in there, and you should be happy." Could this reply possibly be taken seriously by the distressed and confused students?

P. S. (4/8) The point here, it seems to me, is that this just sounds like a psychologically implauisble scenario, doesn't it?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

On the difference between East and West

A redated post.

Do all religions really teach the same thing? Look at this example from Buddhism.

The Buddha's attitude is best presented through illustration. The legend runs that one day a grandmother appeared before him in tears. She had just lost a very dear grandchild. The Buddha looked at her gravely. "How many people are three is this city of Savatthi?" he asked, with apparent irrelevance. Upon receiving her reply, he came to the point. "Would you like to have as many children and grandchildren as there are in this city of Savatthi?" The old lady, still weeping, cried out "yes, yes." "But, the Buddha gently remonstrated, "if you had as many children as there are people in Savatthi, you wuold have to weep every day, for people die daily there." The old lady thought a moment; he ws right! As she went away comforted, she carried with her the Buddha's saying, "those who have a hundred dear ones have a hundred woes, those who have ninety dear ones have ninety woes..those who have one dear one have one woe, those who hold nothing dear have no woe."

From David S. Noss, A History of the World's Religions (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 2003) 11th ed., p. 180.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Crucified, dead and (temporarily) buried?

Glenn Miller responds to Carrier and Lowder. I didn't get a response last time, so I'm redating it and trying again.

A presentation I did on the 150th Anniversary of Darwin at Glendale Community College

I was supposed to do a presentation on the religious implications of evolution.

Evolution and Religion

Is there a conflict?

An Early Memory

I grew up in a United Methodist church in Phoenix. In the early 1960s, a local fundamentalist pastor was gathering signatures for a ballot initiative that would have prohibited the teaching of evolution in public schools.

This is something of a contrast with “equal time” laws that were developed subsequently, according to which school had to teach creationism alongside evolution. No, he wanted to re-enact something like the law Scopes violated in Tennessee.

Our pastor’s response

Was to publicly criticize this effort. Dr. Long thought that a battle with the theory of evolution was ill-advised, and said so from the pulpit. The Huntley-Brinkley report, then the big competitor with Walter Cronkite on CBS, picked up the story, and an excerpt from Dr. Long’s sermon was on the national news.

Do you believe in evolution?

That is not as straightforward a question as it appears. There are a diverse set of claims which are bundled under the umbrella of “evolution.” Philosopher Alvin Plantinga mentions five, which I call the five points of Darwinism:

Plantinga’s Five Points of Darwinism

Five points of evolutionism

1. The earth is ancient, millions of years old.

2. Species appeared gradually over time.

3. All life on earth comes from a common, single-celled creature.

4. The process of speciation occurred naturalistically, that is, without intelligent direction. Random variation and natural selection were sufficient to produce all life forms.

5. The origin of life also occurred without intelligent direction.

Five points of creationism

1. The earth is young, only thousands of years old.

2. Species appeared in the space of six literal days.

3. Life on earth did not come from a common ancestor. Rather, acts of special creation brought many species into existence.

4. The process of speciation occurred largely as a result of intelligent design on the part of an intelligent agent (God), not in any blind manner.

5. The origin of life was also the product of direct divine activity.

It’s not a package deal

Many people who have doubts about other aspects of evolution think we have good evidence for the first two points of Darwinism, including conservative Christian philosophers J. P. Moreland and William Lane Craig. These are people who believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, but don’t think it requires believing in a young earth.

Young Earth Creationism

Young Earth Creationism, or YEC, holds that biblical chronologies are to be taken literally, and that not only the earth, but also the “heavens,” that is, the universe, came into existence relatively recently. The traditional date of creation according to Archbishop Ussher, places the creation of the entire universe at 4004 B. C. Still advocated by the Institute for Creation Research and by Answers in Genesis.

Scientific problems for YEC

YEC appears to fly in the face of science long before you get to Darwin. If you remember your basic astronomy, the standard measure of astronomic distance is the light year. That is the length of time light travels in a year. (186,000 miles per second isn’t just a good idea. It’s the law.) So if there are galaxies in space millions of light years away, as astronomy tells us, that means we shouldn’t be able to see them with our telescopes, since the universe has been only in existence for 6000 years, and therefore light can have only traveled 6000 light years since the beginning of the universe.

Hyper-literalism and Copernicus

Historically, hyper-literalism has had other battles with science, such as the contention, of both the Catholic Church and Luther, that the Copernican theory cannot be accepted because it conflicts with a literal reading of the Book of Joshua, in which the sun is said to have stood still for Joshua. This implies, of course that it is ordinarily moving. However, no one objects to Copernican astronomy these days.

Must a five-point evolutionist be an atheist?

No. One can believe that the evolutionary process on earth was as the evolutionists say, and still believe that the basic structure of the universe, as it came into being at, say, the Big Bang, required intelligent design, or in fact included intelligent design.

Some Recent Developments

1) The evolution-based atheism movement.

2) The intelligent design movement.

The evolution-based atheism movement

Major figure: Richard Dawkins. Dawkins has attempted to explain evolution to the general public, and has done so in such a way as to put a case for atheism on the back of evolutionary biology. Many scientists have insisted on the relative religious neutrality of evolution, Dawkins and those like him have said no, science has proven fully naturalistic evolution to be true, and that it leaves us with no room for God. Many scientists are in fact atheists, but Dawkins wants to use evolutionary biology to push for atheism. Other supporters of evolution are not happy with this. Dawkins’ most famous book: The God Delusion.

The Intelligent Design Movement

The intelligent design movement doesn’t necessarily buy in on all 5 points of creationism, but does think that our best science will show that you can’t exclude design from an account of how life developed. Thus, claims on behalf of a designer can and should be explicitly made by science, and children in public schools should be made aware of the fact that some people in the scientific community think this way. Many scientists are Christians (such as Francis Collins, the head of the Human Genome Project, and Kenneth Miller), but ID people want an intelligent designer, (which need not necessarily be God) to be brought into scientific discourse. Recent book on Intelligent Design: The Signature In the Cell.


Both of these movements, I think, are attempts to undermine the religious neutrality of evolutionary biology. One group wants to bring religion into biological science, the other wants to use science aggressively to get rid of God. However, I think both of these viewpoints are in the minority within the scientific community.

Thomas Nagel recommends Meyer's The Signature in the Cell

Watch out, Tom. Giving aid and comfort to IDiots is a dangerous idea.

Friday, November 27, 2009

A website on the basics of evolution

Flew's Theology and Falsification

Flew's famous essay that dominated philosophy of religion until Plantinga and Swinburne came along.

Is Global Warming Science Fudged?

A modest response to critics of Christian sexual morality

This is a response to C. S. Lewis's defense of traditional sexual ethics by Keith Parsons.

It looks as if we certainly can, (pun intended) screw ourselves up with our sex behavior. It looks to me as if permanent happiness in relationships is found primarily in relationships in which fidelity is promised and that promise is kept. That won’t take you all the way to the traditional religious position, but it does make it incumbent on critics of traditional sexual morality to replace it with some kind of behavioral code that keeps our sexual conduct from causing harm.

You can cause harm with every other part of your life, and there are rules governing conduct in those other areas. Why should there be no rules in the sexual area?

It is one thing to criticize Christian sexual morality. It looks like a soft target. But even if you disagree with the traditional code, you have to show some understanding of the considerations that might have led religious believers to accept these kinds of restrictions on sex behavior in the first place.

Relativism and Respect

A trap that many students seem to fall into with respect to ethics (and sometimes with respect to religion as well) is that they assume that if you have the idea that someone has a false belief, you are disrespecting that person, and the only way to restore respect to the conversation is to assume a relativism in which no one is really right and no one is really wrong. Why assume that?

It seems as if they think I can’t say that, for example, deontologists are correct and teleologists are in error, or vice versa, without disrespecting the people on the other side. In plenty of other areas of discussion we can disagree, and thereby think the other guy is wrong, without disrespecting the other person. If I predict victory for the Cardinals over the Titans in the next NFL game, and you say, no, you think the Titans will win, you are saying that I am wrong. Only one team can win the game. But there need be no disrespect.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

If God used an evolutionary process to create us, why did he do it that way?

An interesting question relating the argument from evil to evolution. This is a common argument against forms of theism that accept at least large chunks of evolutionary biology:

Using an evolutionary process over a long time, as opposed to custom-creating everything in six days, seems to leave us with a world that has a lot of suffering in it that would not have otherwise have been there.
Further, one of the reasons that is most frequently offered for believing in evolution is that we have various features that are less than optimal. Our backs tend to hurt because standing straight is a relatively new development in our evolution, and somewhat unnatural. But if God had custom-made us, he would have given us stronger backs that don't get sore so easily. Why didn't God do that?

What is the best theistic response to this objection?

How do you deal with student relativism?

An inclusivist reading of John 14:6

From the Anglican Scotist.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Do Bible Translators have a Liberal Bias?

Apparently, the authors of the conservapeida think so. Apparently it's because the scholars who translated the NIV were too educated for their own good.

The committee in charge of updating the bestselling version, the NIV, is dominated by professors and higher-educated participants who can be expected to be liberal and feminist in outlook. As a result, the revision and replacement of the NIV will be influenced more by political correctness and other liberal distortions than by genuine examination of the oldest manuscripts. As a result of these political influences, it becomes desirable to develop a conservative translation that can serve, at a minimum, as a bulwark against the liberal manipulation of meaning in future versions.

Dang those pointy-headed professors.

Keith Parsons has some responses on the Secular Outpost. Please, please, don't invoke Poe's Law.

Conservatism deserves better than this.

Intolerance, or logic

If a statement is the sort of statement that can be true or false, then it cannot be both true and false. Hence, "God exists" and "God does not exist" cannot both be true. That's not intolerance, its logic.

Three arguments for the finitude of the past

Between Heaven and Hell

Today is Nov. 22, the 43rd anniversary of Kennedy's assassination, but also of the deaths of Aldous Huxley and C. S. Lewis. I thought I would  commemorate the occasion by linking to a book by Peter Kreeft which has a fictional dialogue between these three departed luminaries. It's an interesting and entertaing read, a dialogue on the Trilemma.

I still remember being in the lunch line at Orangedale School when I heard about the Kennedy assassination. I had never heard of the other two, being in the fifth grade at the time.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A critique of the Argument from Desire

Which includes an analysis of a Bayesian version of the argument that I tried to develop.

C. S. Lewis on the "progress" of modern thought

A redated post.

This is a passage from C. S. Lewis's The Empty Universe, which was a introduction Lewis wrote to a book entitled A New Diagram of Heaven and Earth by a man named Harding. It parallels some of the comments I have been putting up on DI2 about the "siphoning off" argument is Swinburne and Feser.

The process whereby man has come to know the universe is from one point of view extremely complicated; from another it is alarmingly simple. We can observe a single one-way progression. At the outset the universe appears packed with will, intelligence, life, and positive qualities; every tree is a nymph and every planet a god. Man himself is akin to the gods. The advance gradually empties this rich and genial universe, first of its gods, then of its colours, smells, sounds and tastes, finally of solidity itself as solidity was originally imagined. As these items are taken from the world, they are transferred to the subjective side of the account: classified as out sensations, thoughts, images or emotions. The Subject becomes gorged, inflated, at the expense of the Object. But the matter does not rest there. The same method which has emptied the world now proceeds to empty ourselves. The masters of the method soon announce that we were just mistaken (and mistaken in much the same way) when we attributed “souls” or ‘selves” or “minds’ to human organisms, as when we attributed Dryads to the trees. Animism, apparently, begins at home. We, who have personified all other things, turn out to be ourselves mere personifications. Man is indeed akin to the gods, that is, he is no less phantasmal than they. Just as the Dryad is a “ghost,” an abbreviated symbol for certain verifiable facts about his behaviour: a symbol mistaken for a thing. And just as we have been broken of our bad habit of personifying trees, so we must now be broken of our habit of personifying men; a reform already effected in the political field. There never was a Subjective account into which we could transfer the items which the Subject had lost. There is no “consciousness” to contain, as images or private experiences, all the lost gods, colours, and concepts. Consciousness is “not the sort of noun that can be used that way.”

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Will Belichick lose his Mensa membership

Bob Young of the Arizona Republic thinks so.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Abortion and paternal responsibility

What can be done to equalize the consequences of irresponsible sex? Men can dump their girlfriends and move on, often without consequences. They brag in the locker room, the girls get an embarrasingly oversized stomach and then a child to take care of unless it is given up for adoption or aborted. That is why, I think, women's rights groups have been largely pro-choice.

But what would you say to the idea of aggressively using DNA technology to identify fathers and to require paternal responsibility. What would happen if girls knew that if they carried their child to term and kept it, that the father could have his wages garnished to make sure she could afford to take care of it? And what would that do to guys to make them think twice about jumping into the sack without serious commitment?

It seems to me that this idea should be appealing both to pro-lifers and to feminists. If you think abortion should be safe, legal, and rare, or illegal and rare, you can still agree that this is a good idea.

There has to be something wrong with this idea. It's too practical.

Sure, I'm a physicalist

I can say that physical particles include psychons, angelons, and theons. (The soul, angels, and God). An ideally completed physics will eventually figure out that these things exist, and they will be included in the ontology of physics, so they're physical.

Why can't I say this?

A summary of theories of truth

What is truth, said Pontius Pilate.

The full text of the Constitution

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Bill Craig's Molinist Defense of Everlasting Punishment

I think I actually side with the Calvinists here (!) (But, of course, not only with them). A God with middle knowledge should be able to save everyone.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My descriptive project on Calvinism and evil

Steve Hays seems to have thought that my most recent posts about Calvinism are implicit attacks, and that my disclaimers are phony. Even though most people know that I don't accept Calvinism, my project was descriptive rather than argumentative.

VR: The Calvinist has to say not merely that our conduct is sinful, but that our natural understanding of what is right and wrong is so badly tainted by sin that what we would ordinarily think of as bad really good if it is claimed that God has done it.

SH: i) This is one of Reppert’s conceited blindspots. In his furry little mind he imagines that deep down, in their heart-of-hearts, all Calvinists share his moral intuitions. Yet they’ve suppressed their moral intuitions to knuckle under the brute authority of Scripture, as they understand it.

But, speaking for myself, I don’t share his moral intuitions on a wide range of issues.

VR: I think choosing a world in which some people suffer eternally over a world in which they don't would appear wrong in most human contexts, and the only thing that can save the Calvinist is a greater good which is a function of God's unique status.

If I had the power to prevent the Holocaust and could do so in a way that was perfectly consonant with the all parties involved having free will in whatever sense of free will you are willing to recognize, then I would be considered acting wrongly if I failed to prevent it.

And the claim that God's chief praiseworthy characteristic is holiness rather than goodness was taken straight from Bnonn.

What you seem to deny is that human beings ordinarily know how to apply the term "good," and that the statement "God is good" means something based on some kind of commensurability between goodness as we apply it in human contexts and goodness as we apply it in theological contexts. Most moral theories, and even most moral codes, seem to include some requirement on our part to promote the happiness of others, although some put some people in the "not my neighbor" class.

In short, this is theological voluntarism in effect, with what I call the eliminative solution to the problem of evil. Let's look at the typical formulation of the argument from evil:

1. If God exists, then there are no gratuitous evils.

2. There are gratuitous evils.


3. God does not exist.

It seems to me that you a moral skeptic can get rid of 1 by saying that we don't have the kind of moral knowledge to identify gratuitous evils, either in this life or in eternity. We may dislike the fact that certain people are damned, especially if they are near and dear to us, but we can't use that as a reason to doubt God. This is what I mean by claiming that Calvinism invariably leads to the problem of evil being treated as a pseudoproblem.

So, setting aside your tendentious descriptions of our differences, I think my overall assessment of what Calvinism entails with respect to the argument from evil is correct. It is an eliminativist solution. You may in fact see that as a strength for the Calvinist.

I think you are right to raise questions about how I described the Calvinist view, in that I do think you are right in supposing that I was presupposing that there are general moral concepts that we can at least try to apply to God's actions, which a Calvinist could deny. Though lots of Calvinists tell me that their initial inclination when first becoming a Calvinist was to find it morally counterintuitive. Not every Calvinist is the moral skeptic you are.

It does matter to me that the project here was principally descriptive, an attempt to describe the Calvinist response to the problem of evil rather than an argumentative project attempting to show that Calvinists have it wrong. It seems to me that almost every time you sit down to your word processor you want to make some polemical point. That just isn't how I operate. Trying to "beat" the other guy, to show him or her up for a fool, has limited utility as I see it, because all that would show would be that my opponent wasn't all that great as a representative for his position, and surely there are better ones out there. The project of understanding the Calvinist, even though I disagree with him, is a worthwhile project in and of itself. You know that I don't agree with Calvinism, and you may try to "head off at the pass" some argument that I might make, but you should understand that I am not making one at the moment. If my statement of what Calvinists hold is inaccurate, then that is another matter. But there was not argument against Calvinism in my post, stated or unstated. You have to respect the content of the text. In fact, I always think twice about actually debating this issue. A big part of me wants to leave that job to others.

I do harbor a suspicion that, when everything is boiled down, the Calvinist theodicy is going to be a "might makes right" argument. But I haven't made that argument yet, of course. And it will probably turn out that I am too much of a moral realist to be a good Calvinist. But that is not part of the current project.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Reasons for Lewis's Success as an Apologist

A redated post.

C. S. Lewis is easily the most influential Christian apologist of the 20th Century. This is remarkable in view of the fact that he only wrote three books that can be correctly said to have been devoted to Christian apologetics: The Problem of Pain, Mere Christianity, and Miracles: A Preliminary Study. There are, of course, a number of essays with considerable apologetic content, and much of even his fiction has apologetic overtones, yet if we think of what his apologetic books were, it is just those three. And those three books are fairly short.
Nevertheless, for many people C. S. Lewis succeeded in the apologist’s task, the task of showing that Christianity is worthy to be believed by modern intelligent people. I would count myself as one of those people. As an 18-year-old Christian with a powerful need for a faith that made sense, Lewis was immensely helpful in providing that. After going through seminary and doctoral work in philosophy, I find that Christianity is still believable for approximately the reasons that Lewis said that it was reasonable. That is not to say that I find everything equally acceptable or cogent, or that I think that Lewis’s developed his arguments with sufficient precision to be defensible as they stand from a philosophical perspective. The word “approximately” is in that sentence for a reason. However, if I am right about what Lewis has accomplished, this is a considerable achievement.
I think there are several important elements to Lewis’s success as an apologist.
One contributing factor is the fact that Lewis’s authorship on a wide range of topics makes it possible for those who know him in virtue of his other writings to know him as an apologist. So, for example, in the Chronicles of Narnia we see Professor Kirke using an argument in favor of believing Lucy’s claim that she has been to Narnia that is similar to his famous “Mad, Bad or God” argument in Mere Christianity. In That Hideous Strength Lewis presents an account of what happens when people seriously take ethical subjectivism to heart, in The Abolition of Man we see these views defended by philosophical argument, and in Mere Christianity we find moral objectivity used as the grounds for theistic belief. Lewis brings the historical understanding of a literary scholar, the sharpened wit of a philosopher, the keen human understanding of a novelist, and the compassion of a writer of children’s books, to his apologetics.
One striking feature of Lewis’s writings is their persistent refusal to patronize the audience. He was firmly convinced that he could explain complex philosophical and theological concepts to a popular audience without talking over their heads, using the jargon of specialists, or by talking down to them, acting as if they would be unwilling or unable to understand the relevant concepts. In the opening chapter of Beyond Personality, the last of the books the comprised Mere Christianity, we find Lewis saying this:
Everyone has warned me not to tell you what I am going to tell you in this last book. They all say “the ordinary reader does not want Theology; give him plain practical religion.” I have rejected their advice. I do not think the ordinary reader is such a fool. Theology means “the science of God, and I would think that any man who wants to think about God at all would like to have the clearest and most accurate ideas about Him which are available. You are not children: why should you be treated like children? Even in dealing with children, Lewis steadfastly refuses to insult their intelligence. In another passage in Mere Christianity he says “Most children show plenty of ‘prudence’ about the things they are really interested in, and think them out sensibly.” I think this is one reason for Lewis’s success as a writer of children’s fiction; he refused to insult the intelligence even of the children for whom he wrote.
Lewis also had a tremendous ability to know what the layperson did understand, and did not understand. This resulted in part from his visits to the RAF and talking with the airmen. He knew how lay audiences thought and what their stumbling-blocks were. Lewis knew what sorts of language, so familiar in church, would be unrecognizable to lay audiences, and he avoided it.
Another reason for Lewis’s popularity as an apologist is that his apologetics are rational without being rationalistic. Lewis firmly believed that Christian faith is supported by reason, and was not shy about presenting arguments in favor of his Christian beliefs. At the same time Lewis never made the assumption that human beings were purely and simply rational, and that the emotions or the will were insignificant.
The Christianity Lewis defended was traditional, historic Christianity, deeply committed to a thoroughgoing supernaturalism. He did emphasize central Christian doctrines like the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Deity of Christ, the bodily resurrection of Christ, heaven, hell, and the Second Coming. The Christianity he espoused had a miraculous element for which he did not apologize. However, with respect to other issues, the bulk of Lewis’s apologetic work was neutral with respect to questions dividing Christians. I am not claiming that Lewis was completely successful in sticking to “Mere Christianity” in his apologetics and did not sometimes espouse doctrines that are at issue amongst Christians. For example, Lewis’s treatment of the problem of evil presupposes the libertarian view of free will, and his conception of hell is at odds with Calvinist theology. But what I mean is this: that his apologetics can be readily accepted and employed by people who accept the infallibility of the pope, even though he did not. It can be accepted by people who accepted biblical inerrancy, even though he did not. In fact a good deal that Lewis says can be accepted by Calvinists, even though Lewis was not a Calvinist. Lewis is arguably the most successful ecumenist of the twentieth century, bringing together Catholics and Protestants, inerrantists and anti-inerrantists, and other groups of Christians otherwise divided.
Lewis also brought the perspective of a Christian convert to his apologetics. He was an atheist, and a rather hostile one, in his teens, and came to believe in God only at the age of 31. This means that he is able to look at Christianity from the point of view. Logically, for example, there seems no good reason to suppose that the size of the universe can be used as an argument for atheism, and yet, in many minds, it does serve as such an argument, and Lewis found it necessary to respond to it.
All of these things, I believe, have contribute to Lewis’s popular success as an apologist. However, all of these achievements, which are considerable, are quite compatible with Lewis’s having provided poor and inadequate reasons for accepting Christianity. Lewis's apologetics still must be put before the bar of rational argument, just like anyone else's.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Reason's debt to Freedom? Why I'm skeptical

Aristophanes wrote: I have a question for Professor Reppert. Does anyone know where to direct it? It pertains to the argument Lewis gives against Naturalism in Miracles. Lewis's argument seems to me to be that determinism gives us a defeater for reason. Can anyone point out where to direct questions for Professor Reppert's attention?

Well, it depends on the kind of determinism. If it is determinism from a non-rational source, then this is a problem. On the other hand I have no choice about whether or not to believe that 2 + 2 = 4 or not. If I am rightly situated with respect to that truth, then I don't choose whether or not to accept it or not.

Although there have been papers like Warner Wick's "Truth's Debt to Freedom," that is not the way that I would be especially inclined to pursue.

Mind 1964 LXXIII(292):527-537 (1964).

Calvinism, Infant Damnation, and the Problem of Evil as a pseudoproblem

The question has to do with whether we have an understanding of goodness that allows us to view suffering as a problem. Of course, infants are deemed innocent, then God doesn't have an moral motive to inflict suffering as well as a moral motive to alleviate suffering. However, if federal theory is accepted, along with a Reformed understanding of God's moral motivation to punish sin, then even an infant is under the federal headship of Adam and therefore God has a moral motivation to inflict suffering on the infant based on his justice, just as he has a moral motivation to alleviate suffering based on his mercy, and it's up for grabs whether he is just or merciful. Exactly the same situation obtains with infant reprobation as adult reprobation, and the only difference is that in the case of adult reproations, we have people who are visibly sinful, while in the case of infant reprobations, there is an appearance of the innocence of the victims. However, on the assumption that we can deserve punishment in virtue of our descent from Adam, this appearance is illusory, and there is no relevant difference between the two cases.

In ordinary human contexts, moral goodness/righteousness/holiness is centered around, among other things, the minimization of the suffering of others, or maximizing the benefit of others. This may not be all there is to morality (unless you're a utilitarian), but it's an important part of it at least. On the Reformed conception of goodness, this is a contingent fact about human beings in virtue of the kinds of social relations in which we find outselves. The Calvinistic response to the problem of evil maintains that this requirement for God to minimize suffering, either in the short run or in the long run, is a function of extrapolating the conception of human goodness, which is defined in terms of God's commands to us, to God himself, thus collapsing the creator-creature distinction and requiring God to minimize suffering.

That is why I have been arguing that the Calvinistic claim with respect to the problem of evil is to eliminate it, and this is done by rendering it a pseudoproblem. What the Calvinist claims is that God has a moral reason to inflict suffering as well as to alleviate it, therefore the amount and distribution of suffering does not count against theism one iota.
If this all seems counterintuitive to you, well, (and it seems counterintuitive on top of counterintuitive on top of counterintuitive to me) that's just a sign of how depraved you are, and how much you want to avoid God's justice, and how much you need to submit your intuitions to God's Holy Word. Or so I'm being told.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Here is a great T-shirt

Or you could try this one.

God said it.

______ (Insert your favorite exegete here) exegeted it.

That settles is.

An Infidels Critique of the Kalam Cosmological Argument

On A Canticle for Leibowitz

A redated post.

This is a Wikipedia commentary on Walter Miller's science fiction book A Canticle for Liebowitz. Lewis is often credited with coming up with the expression "You don't have a soul, you are a soul. You have a body," But it really came from Canticle.

Bill Vallicella Rates the Philosophers

And finds that a bunch of theists are on the top seven. It's arguable that Hume was a theist of sorts as well, in spite of his use of the argument from evil and his criticisms of theistic arguments.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Supernaturalism and falsifiability

A redated post.

It is sometimes said that supernatural claims are unfalsifiable, while naturalistic ones are falsifiable. I don't see how this argument can be defended. First of all, we need to have a clear idea of what it is that makes a thesis supernatural. What is the supernatural?

But suppose we have such an idea. What does it take to falsify something? If what we mean is that the evidence logically entails the falsity of the thesis. That's a standard that would make every claim unfalsifiable. It's always possible to "fix" a disconfirmed theory to fit the evidence.

Falsification occurs, according to another definition, when all well-informed adherents of the thesis admit that the thesis is false. That is more plausible. But it seems to me that we could reach a situation where all well-informed defenders of a claim give up, whether the thesis is supernatural or natural.

It may be the case the well-informed people may find it harder to give up when religious beliefs are at stake. But how does supernaturalism render claims unfalsifiable?

A blog dedicated to working on the age of the earth controversy

Defends the day-age interpretation of Genesis.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Reformed Defense of Infant Damnation

Well, it does defuse an argument for a woman's right to choose.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Two Plus Two is.....

Socrates said, "The unexamined life is not worth living."
Russell said, "Most people would sooner die than think; in fact, they do so."

Does that mean that most people's lives are not worth living?

On worshipping Mary

A charge frequently leveled at the Catholic Church is that Catholic worship the Blessed Virgin Mary, which would make the guilty of idolatry. The answer of Catholic theology it that this charge is untrue. The devotion given to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is designated by the Latin term latria. The high veneration given to the Virgin is called hyperdoulia, and the veneration given to saints is called doulia.

Protestants sometimes don't find this response satisfactory, because they think that the actual practice of Catholics in the devotion to the Blessed Virgin turns the distinction between hyperdoulia and latria into a distinction without a differences. Pilgrims to Our Lady of Lourdes will walk for miles on their knees, an act of dedication that few perform in devotion to the Godhead.

Nevertheless, the answer of Catholic theology is quite clear: Catholics do not worship Mary.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A biblical defense of universalism

The words rendered hell in the bible, sheol, hadees, tartarus, and gehenna,

shown to denote a state of temporal duration.

All the texts containing the word examined and explained in harmony

with the doctrine of universal salvation.

This was 1888. Talbott before Talbott.

The AFR makes in into a bioethics journal

In an article by William Cheshire.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Red Alert: Cardinals take out Giants in the Meadowlands.

Arizona Cardinals 24, New York Giants 17.

Calvinism as an eliminativist solution to the problem of evil

The purpose of this post is not to criticize Calvinism, but to provide an exposition of why I think Calvinist theology dissolves, rather than solves the problem of evil. It looks to me as if the logical conclusion of Calvinism is that the idea of gratuitous suffering, the centerpiece of the argument from evil, is a misguided notion, given the fact that we all deserve not only to suffer, but to suffer eternally.

I think you can just get rid of the problem of evil if you make the kind of move that Calvinists make here, namely that alongside an obligation to alleviate suffering there is an obligation not to let sin go unpunished. Therefore, since we are all sinners (if for no other reason than being descended from our federal head, Adam), God has, for any instance of suffering, no undefeated reason not to permit it or even to inflict it.

The concept of goodness, according to Calvinists, is rooted in God's nature, but rightness is rooted in God's commands. This isn't strictly speaking voluntarism, since God's nature determines his commands; he can't just command anything. However, goodness is defined, as I understand it, on God's glory, which involves the expression of all of his attributes. He exercises the attribute of mercy in sending his son to die for the sins of the elect, and in giving irresistible grace to the elect so that they can repent and believe. He also exercises his attribute of justice by inflicting just punishment on those who oppose his will. Both of these are good outcomes from God's perspective, even though they are bad outcomes for the damned.

What I think this does is actually eliminate the problem of evil. If you can make the step of believing that the the just punishment of sin is an intrinsic and not a remedial good, then not only can you accept the idea that God is justified in predestining people for hell, but you can also justify the claim that whatever humans suffer while on earth, they had it coming and shouldn't complain to God.

We are not commanded to mirror God's nature in every respect; so we have obligations to alleviate suffering that God lacks, though a Calvinist would say that we have obligations to inflict retribution is some cases ourselves. But the limitation on our obligation to punish is not shared by God.

It seems to me that this is a dissolution rather than a solution to the problem of evil. One doesn't try to find explanations why a God who loves everyone permits so much pain even though he has everyone's best interest as heart. God doesn't have everyone's best interests at heart, God has his own glory at heart, which coincides with our interests only if we are among the elect.

I have trouble seeing the punishment of sin as an intrisic good; I see it as a sort of plan B; a remedial good in response to that which God removes from his control by providing us with libertarian free will.

But the purpose of this is not engage the Calvinist debate, it is rather intended to exposit what I take the Calvinist position to be.

I hope this doesn't start the charges and countercharges of sock puppeting again. I suspect this hope is vain, however.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Davis Young on Bible-based geology

A leading Christian geologist thinks that you can’t get detailed geological science out of the Bible, and when you do, you get the wrong answer.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Correcting a misleading Reppert quote in Loftus

John Loftus includes this statement in his widely posted review of John Beversluis's new edition of C. S. Lewis and the Search for Rational Religion.

In the book The Problem of Pain, coming at the heels of WWII, Lewis deals head-on with the Problem of Evil. How Beversluis tackles Lewis’ argument is probably best summed up by Christian philosopher Victor Reppert, who wrote: “If the word ‘good’ must mean approximately the same thing when we apply it to God as what it means when we apply it to human beings, then the fact of suffering provides a clear empirical refutation of the existence of a being who is both omnipotent and perfectly good. If, on the other hand, we are prepared to give up the idea that ‘good’ in reference to God means anything like what it means when we refer to humans as good, then the problem of evil can be sidestepped, but any hope of a rational defense of the Christian God goes by the boards.” (

Now Loftus' use of my statement is a tad misleading, because what I was doing was summarizing Beversluis's argument from his 1985 edition, not endorsing it. I have defended Lewis's treatment of the problem of evil in response to the first Beversluis edition, both in the context of The Problem of Pain and A Grief Observed, in my essay "The Ecumenical Apologist", in the four-volume Lewis encyclopedia that came out a couple of years ago from Praeger Press.

I am just mentioning this to set the record straight.

On Skinning Cats: Keith Parsons on Human Depravity as the Best Argument for Christianity

G. K. Chesterton called original sin the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved. 

Certain new theologians dispute original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved.  Some followers… in their almost too fastidious spirituality, admit divine sinlessness, which they cannon see even in their dreams.  But they essentially deny human sin, which they can see in the street.  The strongest saints and the strongest skeptics alike took positive evil as the starting-point of their argument.  If it can be true (as it certainly is) that a man can feel exquisite happiness in skinning a cat, then the religious philosopher can draw only draw one of two deductions.  He must either deny the existence of God, as all atheists do; or he must deny the present union between God and man, as all Christians do.  The new theologians seem to think it a highly rationalistic solution to deny the cat, (pg. 28).

P. Z. Myers says Plantinga gives philosophy a bad name

I fear for the reputation of my beloved discipline.

"See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy." (Col 2:8)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

If Jesus wasn't resurrected, then what?


The body was stolen by the disciples to make it look as if Jesus had been resurrected.

The body was buried in one tomb temporarily and then put in the graveyard for criminals. The women found the tomb empty and thought he had been resurrected.

The disciples had experiences of Jesus that were hallucinatory.

Jesus wasn’t quite dead on the cross, and got out of his tomb claiming to be resurrected.

The women went to the wrong tomb.

Jesus had an unknown identical twin brother who began a hoax about the resurrection.

Anybody got a better theory?

Miracles and Missionaries a redated post

A redated post.

J. D. Walters raises an interesting point in his discussion of miracles. People often say "If God performed miracles back in Bible times, why doesn't he perform them now." J. D. says in fact that there is an

- abundance of modern miracles (I don't know where you get your information, hallq; you need to spend a few years working with missionaries in Africa and China) .

What about modern miracle claims? Should we be so quick to conclude that God isn't performing miracles today? Maybe J. D. can elaborate.

William Lane Craig on Miracles

Naturalism without causal closure?

The problem has to do with causal closure. Presumably, you have matter moving in the universe without purpose, producing stars, then planets, then water, then life, (one-celled biological systems), then fish, dinosaurs, amphibians, mammals, primates, and then people. Now people presumably act for reasons, and suppose that mental causation is causally basic. Talk about a person becoming persuaded that atheism is true because of evidence from evil is not macro-talk for a physical process which is blind at the basic level but has mental characteristics as system features.

The question is how did tihs happen? What changed the physical order to make it possible for reasons to become basic causes. If people are acting for reasons, then either you've got to reduce reasons out of the causal transaction, or you've got matter acting in ways it doesn't ordinarily act when it's in a brain as opposed to when it's in a rock. Emergence of other kinds is one thing, but emergent laws? I suppose you can say that it's just a brute fact that matter is going to behave differently once a brain of a certain complexity emerges. But isn't this whole thing more probable given theism than it is given ordinary naturalism.

But suppose our motto is "anything but God." Well, then meet C. S. Lewis. According to his autobiography Lewis accepted the overall contours of the argument from reason, but he didn't become a theist at that point. No, he became an absolute idealist. He found other reasons for rejecting idealism and for becoming a theist. So while his acceptance of the AFR certainly helped to move him in the direction of theism, there were alternatives to traditional theism available to him. So while the AFR helps to get rid of certain very popular positions contrary to traditional Abrahamic theism, it doesn't eliminate all of them, nor did it persaude even C. S. Lewis to do so.

To avoid a large explanatory problem, however, I think people who are naturalists are best advised to defend versions of naturalism that include the three doctrines of mechanism (nothing mental at the basic level), causal closure of the physical, and supervenience.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Keith Ward on the Impact of Kant

Schwarz's challenge to the materialist assumptions of neuroscience

Apparently he is allied with the people who make a good deal out of quantum mechanics.

Schwarz and Begley on the Mind and the Brain

Can neuroscience criticize the causal closure of the physical? Schwarz seems to think he can.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Is spousal abuse a pre-existing condition?

It is for some insurance companies. This is sick.

Scientific Research on Top-Down Causation?

I'm redating this post because of BDK's inquiry about dualist-supporting research.

This research proposal hopes to test the possibility of top-down causation in human cognition.

I suppose a real skeptic would have to say that this is methodologically unscientific. Cranes, not skyhooks, you IDiots.

A Stanford Encyclopedia Entry on Descartes' Ontological Argument

The author argues that Descartes can rebut all the easy refutations, but doesn't necessarily endorse the argument.

Naturalism and Physicalism: A Response to Teague Tubach

This is a claim frequently urged, but I have yet to see it properly defended.
Teague Tubach: Physicalism and naturalism are not the same thing. Vic's blog and several comments here are confused about this, it seems.

I guess I do agree that they are different, all right. But how are they interestingly different, Teague? In physicalism, the basic stratum is the physical, and something can't be physical unless it lacks intentionality, subjectivity, normativity, and purpose. Everything else is a system byproduct of physics, which has nothing in it containing those four characteristics.

Naturalists, I suppose, could refuse to call the basic level the physical if they wanted to. But where would that get us? At the end of the day, we have to either affirm or deny that the mental, as I have described it, is operating causally at the most basic level of analysis. There could be naturalisms, I suppose, that were distinct from physicalism, but they would have exactly the difficulty that I have been posing for physicalism.

The Threshold Problem and the True Miami Dolphins: A Further Response to BDK

Do we need to indicate the threshold? When do we start asking "What is it like to be a....." As I said in an interview once, maybe there is a colony of dolphins off the coast of Miami who have a rich, civilized mental life similar to our own (the true Miami Dolphins). We know we have the kinds of states that cause problems for materialism. Other creature haven't communicated with us in ways that really do show that they have the kind of mental life that we do, so far as I can tell. So humans could be unique in this way. But nothing happens to my argument if chimp studies show that the kinds of states that I think cause problems for naturalists also exist in animals. To me, that makes it worse for naturalists, not better.

What makes people think that a contemporary dualist is a Cartesian about animals? Ed always acts as if he can refute the AFR by citing chimp studies. But human uniqueness is a red herring in this discussion. If the mental properties we have are problematic naturalistically, then they are problematic naturalistically if we find them in other animals.

The Transcendental Foundations of our Mental Life

We have trancendental reasons for supposing that our intentionality, normativity, purposiveness, and subjectivity is real. If our thought are not about anything determinate, then the thoughts of scientists are not about anything determinate, and the thoughts of atheistic philosophers are not about anything determinate. If there is no mental causation; if mental states do not cause other mental states, then scientists can't say that they believe what they believe on the basis of the scientific evidence. If there is no mental causation, then you can't say that you reject the existence of God because of the evil in the world.

I love the Fodor quote: if it isn't literally true that my wanting is causally responsible for my reaching, and my itching is causally responsible for my scratching, and my believing is causally responsible for my saying. . . . if none of that is literally true, then practically everything I believe about anything is false and it's the end of the world.

( Fodor, A Theory of Content and Other Essays, Cambridge, Mass, Bradford Book/MIT Press, 1990, p. 156; quoted in Stich, Deconstructing the Mind, New York, 1996, OUP, p. 169)

Is Penal Substitution Consistent with Arminianism

Former Fundy says is isn't, and that this is a reason for rejecting evangelical Christianity.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Reply to Ed on the AFR

EB: Vic, you're trying to smuggle in something "more than natural" by predefining what "nature" can and cannot do. In your opinion electro-chemical reactions in a complex assemblage of neurons connected with acute sensory apparatus and plenty of memory (and self-reflective recursive overlays) cannot explain consciousness. But in the opinion of naturalists, it can.

You use the "nothing buttery" argument when you discuss "atoms and equations" as if they represented "nothing" but themselves, and you use the thought that "that is all there is" according to naturalists. So you cannot even imagine how a naturalist might get a "mind" out of such things. Of COURSE looking at a single atom isolated and alone, and looking at an equation is incomplete. But that has nothing to do with whether or not consciousness is natural.

Vic, ask yourself how do you get ANYTHING out of atoms and equations? Molecules? Organs? Colors? Sounds? Reproducing organisms with teeny brains and then larger and more complex and faster brains? None of that is inherent in atoms and equations if you want to press your initial premise. But naturalism does not begin and END with that premise of yours, naturalism may also include concepts like emergence in their philosophy.

WHAT YOU SHOULD ATTEMPT TO DO IS LOCATE AN UNCROSSABLE BOUNDARY BETWEEN TWO SPECIES EVOLUTIONARY RELATED ALONG A SPECTRUM OF DESCENDANTS, ON ONE SIDE OF WHICH THE BRAIN IS NATURAL, AND ON THE OTHER SIDE OF WHICH IT IS "BEYOND NATURE." Have fun attempting to discover such an inviolable boundary. I'd thought at one time that perhaps the ability of a species to recognize itself in a mirror might do. But that raises other questions, since that type of consciousness exists in some monkeys, but not all monkeys, and also in species that have evolved larger more complex brain-minds along separate evolutionary lines of descent, like dolphins and elephants.

VR: You have to have some idea of what nature can and cannot do, otherwise the term is vacuous. My dissertation advisor once said that the definition of the physical is whatever physics quantifies over, and there are theories that quantify over God, and therefore, as he understands it, that would make God physical. If that is permissible, then I am hard pressed to understand why so many mainstream science types have a cow when you want to bring ID into science.

The "supernatural" is not one that I would introduce, except to define seomthing that goes beyond the limits of what naturalists will accept as natural. My argument is that "the mental" can't find a purchase in the world unless it is metaphysically fundamental. Hence "natural" for me, means something fundamentally non-mental in nature. I take it this is what Dennett is getting at when he rejects skyhooks. Blue Devil Knight accepts this kind of definition whenever I present it, and it is standard in the literature.

On a standard interpretation of "physicalism" or of "naturalism," basic physics is defined by denying mental qualities to it. I don't see any other way of solving Hempel's dilemma. Hempel's dilemma is the argument that naturalism can't mean anything, because either it tells us that everything can be explained in terms of present physics, which is absurd, or it says that everything can be explained in terms of some future physics, which could include anything and everything, and is therefore vacuous.

So long physics is mental-free and closed, there are limits on the type of emergence that is permissible. Do you mean by emergence just something that isn't quantified over in basic physics? If so, then "solidity" or "liquidity" or "gaseousness" would not be physical properties, since these properties could not be predicated of individual atoms.

I would argue that the only kind of "emergent" properties that are accepable under physicalistic or naturalistic constraints are properties that logically must exist given what is true on the level of basic physics. If we know where all the bricks are in a wall, we know how tall the wall is, even though no brick in the wall has, say, the property of being six feet tall. The physical information closes the question. Whatever facts can be entailed by "physical" information are emergent in a benign sense. If the physical information leaves the emergent state undetermined, either the mental state isn't real, or there is some reality other than the non-mental substrate that explains its existence. It is "supernatural" not in the sense of being spooky, or weird, or even religious, but just that it won't fit in to the contraints of a naturalistic system as we have defined it.

When it comes to intentional states, I maintain that there are good arguments saying that there are no strict psychophysical laws, and that being the case, whatever mental states exist are underdetermined by the physical. The physical information is compatible with seeing a rabbit or seeing undetached rabbit parts. Or, there could be no inner states of meaning this or meaning that, at all. There is no perspective from which the entity perceives his perception as a perception of a rabbit or a perception of undetached rabbit parts.

Further, in order to capture our common-sense conception of rational inference, you need for mental states to have causal relevance. However, if the "physical" or "natural" or however you want to define the non-mental substrate is causally closed, that means that unless the existence of the mental state is logically guaranteed my the physical, it can have no possible causal relevance. It can never be true that you reject belief in God because you believe that there is gratuitous evil in the world. Darwin didn't come to believe that the changes in the characteristic of finches in the Galapagos islands occurred due to natural selection. That didn't happen, because states like "perceiving changes X, Y, and Z in the Galapogos finches" cannot cause or even be causally relevant to the formation of the belief "this happened by natural selection."

Molecules seem to be entailed by the physical. Given the state of the basic particles, you can't deny the existence of molecules. Organs would set of particles. Colors and sounds are a little more complex, because there are scientific descriptions of the light or sound waves, but then there is also what it is like to see red or hear sea waves crashing. The former is OK within naturalism, the latter requires an answer to the hard problem of consciousness. Would red exist if there were no one in existence to see red?

Again, human uniqueness is not an issue, since at least by the time we get to the higher animals I think their consciousness cannot be explained physicalistically either, so monkey and dolphin studies are a red herring. If you show that monkeys and dolphins have the sort of rich, inner mental lives that include the capacity for genuine rational inference, then naturalism, as I have defined it, has a problem with monkeys and dolphins as well as for humans. That makes it worse for the naturalist, not better. (I have no problem with doggie heaven, that means I'm going to get to see my late beagle Boots someday.)

There is a type of emergence that could be applied to this kind of a case, and that is where, given mental states, the laws that govern physical states change in such a way that the mental can be causally relevant. In other words, there are emergent laws. Again naturalists are going to object vehemently if you introduce this kind of causation, and you would also have to explain just how it is fresh laws are introduced into the system, especially if you want to exclude intelligent design as a possible explanation.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The God-Obsessed Atheist

In Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy we find a character that I thought was Antony Flew back when it came out.

Oolon Colluphid is the author of several books on religious and other philosophical topics. Colluphid's works include:

Where God Went Wrong
Some More of God's Greatest Mistakes
Who Is This God Person Anyway?
Well That About Wraps It Up for God
Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Guilt But Were Too Ashamed To Ask
Everything You Never Wanted To Know About Sex But Have Been Forced To Find Out

Adams writes:

Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so mind-bogglingly useful could have evolved purely by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as a final and clinching proof of the non-existence of God. The argument goes something like this: "I refuse to prove that I exist," says God, "for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing." "But," says Man, "the Babel fish is a dead giveaway isn't it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves that you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don't. Q.E.D." "Oh dear," says God, "I hadn't thought of that," and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic. "Oh, that was easy," says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing. Most leading theologians claim that this argument isn't worth a pair of fetid dingo's kidneys, but that didn't stop Oolon Colluphid from making a fortune with his book Well That About Wraps It Up For God.

Adams, an atheist, couldn't have been making fun of atheists who obsessively attack religion, could he? Naaaah.

Does anyone besides me see the irony in all of this?

Lewis on Obstinacy of Belief

An essay also known as "faith and evidence."

Willard on Searle on non-reductive materialism

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Abortion, the death penalty, and the charge of hypocrisy

It is not a contradiction to support both the right to choose abortion but not the death penalty. If you believe you shouldn't kill persons without adequate moral justification, then you may support abortion because you think that fetuses aren't really persons. That is, you may think that a fetus really hasn't started its life, and therefore has no life to lose. But you may oppose the death penalty, because capital criminals have fully developed brains and know they are losing their lives. Many Democrats accept these two positions.

It can go the other way, too. Someone can believe in the death penalty because they think capital criminals deserve it. But they may also think that the fetus is a real person whose right to life has to be respected. Many Republicans are in this boat.

You may disagree with these pairs of positions, but the people who advocate them are not contradicting themselves. The death penalty issue and the abortion issue are two different questions that have to be assessed on their own merits.

Lewis on Christianity and happiness

I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew that a bottle of Port would do that.

(In this passage, Lewis is not thinking of happiness in Aristotelian terms).

Intentionality, Water, and the Obama Configuration: A Reply to Clayton and BDK

I was going to respond to Clayton as soon as I got the time. And the water=H20 example occurred to me when I read what he wrote.
But look at how the water case went historically. We started calling something water that had certain phenomenal properties. We were prepared to call anything water that had those properties. We figured out that the only thing that ever had those properties had a particular chemical structure. We melded the idea of water with the idea of having just that chemical structure. In other words, it looks as if when the discovery was made, language made a shift to the chemical structure conception. The class of objects now referred to as water changed intension but extension remained the same.

When we get to intentional matters, we are being told that we are not going to get a single brain-structure that will be present in all cases of, say, thinking about Obama. Correct me if I'm wrong about this, but if we examined everybody's brain who is thinking about Obama right now, neuroscience would not be able to go in and say "Aha. There it is. The Obama configuration. That's what he's thinking about. Hmmm. This looks like a Republican brain, since his endorphins drop every time he thinks about Obama. You don't get that with a Democratic brain."

So I'm not sure these water examples help at all.

And then you have the problem of non-normative information entailing something normative. If you don't think you can derive "morally good" from physical configurations, why do you think you can get "thinking about Obama" from those same configurations.

I think the prospects of getting an entailment from the left hand side to the right hand side are not good.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A paper delineating different positions on creation and evolution

HT: Alan Rhoda.

Lowder's response to Craig on the Empty Tomb

A redated post.

A simple statement of the argument from reason

You take all the physical descriptions and put them in the left-hand side of the equation. On that side, there can be no intentionality, normativity, subjectivity, or teleology. Add them together, and it looks as if they can't entail anything on the right hand side, the "mental" side of the equation, where we do find intentionality, normativity, subjectivity, and teleology. There is always room for indeterminacy, or, for that matter, room for zombies. The physical works just fine, but there's just no there there. 

Yet the naturalist cannot deny that there is determinate reference. The arguments of the philosophers, the observational reports of the sciences, and the equations of the mathematicians must have determinate meanings. Otherwise, science is impossible, and the case for naturalism collapses. 

Therefore, if naturalism is true, the very things that are supposed to support it, such as argument and reason, aren't real. Only in a universe where the marks of the mental are metaphysically fundamental are these things possible. 

Monday, October 12, 2009

Clifford's The Ethics of Belief

I am redating this post with a link to the actual Clifford essay. Though Internet Infidels has a longer version, here.

"It is wrong, always and everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything for insufficient evidence."

Van Inwagen on Clifford's Principle

Saturday, October 10, 2009

C. S. Lewis and the evidentialist objection

In Beversluis's C. S. Lewis and the Search for Rational Religion, he presents Lewis as someone who accepts the challenge posed by what later can be known as the evidentialist objection.

I think this is a very tricky claim to make out. The big problem is to try to figure out what is packed into the evidentialist objection.

 Consider the classic Cliffordian statement of the evidentialist objection:

 "It is wrong always, and everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence."

And compare it with C. S. Lewis's statement of "evidentialism":

 I am not asking anyone to accept Christianity if his best reasoning tells him that the weight of evidence is against it. That is not the point at which faith comes in.

I would make note of the fact that these are two different types of claims. Clifford is talking about what is morally wrong for everyone to do, Lewis is talking about what he is asking someone to do. Clifford says there must be sufficient evidence for any belief, Lewis is just saying he won't ask for belief if a person's reasoning tells him there is evidence against the belief.

In fact Lewis's account of the ethics of belief raises questions as to whether it is a moral issue at all. He writes in Mere Christianity:

I used to ask how on Earth it can be a virtue--what is there moral or immoral about believing or not believing a set of statements? Obviously, I used to say, a sane man accepts or rejects any statement, not because he wants or does not want to, but because the evidence seems to him good or bad. If he were mistaken about the goodness or badness of the evidence, that would not mean he was a bad man, but only that he was not very clever. And if he thought the evidence bad but tried to force himself to believe in spite of it, that would be merely stupid.

Well, I think I still take that view.

So here we don't have Clifford's moral thunderbolts against those who believe for insufficient evidence, just the suggestion that it isn't a very bright idea.

Further, Lewis seems to cast the net of evidence widely; more widely that, I think Clifford would countenance.

The man who accepts Christianity always thinks he has good evidence; whether, like Dante, fisici e metafisici argoment: or historical evidence, or the evidence of religious experience, or authority, or all of these together. ("On Obstinacy of Belief")

But surely Plantingian properly basic beliefs have experience or authority backing them up, at the very least.

One way of explaining the difference between Lewis and someone like Clifford is to make the case that Clifford is a strong rationalist, who holds that the position that "in order for a religious belief-system to be properly and rationally accepted, it must be possible to prove that the belief-system is true." Further, "prove" has to be parsed in such a way that in order to prove something true one should have evidence sufficiently strong that all rational persons ought to be convinced. Of course, there are many issues on which all persons are not convinced. For example, there is a flat earth society. But this, we suppose, is not because the evidence for a round earth is lacking; rather it is due perhaps to some emotionally-driven biases.

But it doesn't look as if Lewis thinks in this way. In very confident modes Lewis comes off sounding like he thinks he can meet the strong rationalist's criteria for rational belief. Beversluis notes points at which he says "we are forced to conclude..." But he also notes that Lewis says that the evidence may be sufficiently strong to eliminate the psychological possibilty of doubt, but not the logical exclusion of dispute.

My own view is that Lewis is a critical rationalist, who believes that "religious belief systems can and must be rationally criticized and evaluated although conclusive proof of such a system is impossible." That is not to say that his language and tone do not suggest otherwise at times. If by evidentialist we mean the he thinks one must evaluate evidence when forming religious beliefs, of course he is an evidentialist. If we mean that he thinks there is some burden of proof on religious as opposed to non-religious beliefs, or that we should only believe if we have evidence that everyone ought to be able to accept, then he isn't an evidentialist in that sense.

Ham-Fisted empricism: Hasker on externalism and the AFR

It is of course true that a belief, in order to be justified, needs to have been formed and sustained by a reliable epistemic practice. But in the case of rational inference, what is the practice supposed to be. The reader is referred, once gain, to the description of a reasoning process given a paragraph back. Is this not, in fact, a reasonably accurate description of the way we actually view and experience the practice of rational inference and assessment/ It is furthermore, a description which enables us to understand why in many cases a practice is reliable—and why the reliability varies considerably depending on the specific character of the inference drawn and also on the logical capabilities of the epistemic subject. And on the other hand, isn’t it a severe distortion of our actual inferential practice to view the process of reasoning as taking place in a “black box,” as the externalist view in effect invites us to do? Epistemological externalism has its greatest plausibility in cases where the warrant for our beliefs depends crucially on matters not accessible to reflection—for instance, on the proper functioning of our sensory faculties. Rational inference, by contrast, is the paradigmatic example of a situation in which the factors relevant to warrant are accessible to reflection; for this reason, examples based on rational insight have always formed the prime examples for internalist epistemologies.

There is also this question for the thoroughgoing externalist: How are we to satisfy ourselves as to which inferential practices are reliable? By hypothesis, we are precluded from appealing to rational insight to validate our conclusions about this. One might say that we have learned to distinguish good reasoning from bad reasoning, by noticing that good inference-patterns generally give rise to true conclusions, while bad inference-patterns often give rise to falsehood. (This of course assumes that our judgments about particular facts, especially facts revealed through sense perception, are not in question here—an assumption I will grant for the present). But this sort of “logical empiricism” is at best a very crude method for assessing the goodness of arguments. There are plenty of invalid arguments with true conclusions, and plenty of valid arguments with false conclusions. There are even good inductive arguments with all true premises in which the conclusions are false. There are just the distinctions which the science of logic exists to help us with; basing the science on the kind of ham-fisted empiricism described above is a hopeless enterprise.

William Hasker, The Emergent Self (Cornell, 1999), pp. 74-75. From the chapter "Why the Physical Isn't Closed."