Monday, February 23, 2015

Atheism and violence again

Exactly. In the past, an atheist debate will very often assert that they have no intention of convincing anyone to be an atheist. It doesn't matter to them. Or so they said back then. 

But now it does. We can rate people with respect to how much they care whether people believe as they did with respect to religion. Some Christians really care about the beliefs of others, because they think their eternal destiny hangs in the balance. This leads to something I used to call hyper-evangelicalism. 

Some Christians don't care at all what others believe. I am somewhere in the middle; as a believer I hate seeing people intimidated out of their religious beliefs. 

But atheists, and least under the influence of New Atheism, seem to be more and more evangelistic. The idea seems to be that the world is on a cusp, between falling back into a new dark age through religion, or getting beyond this by embracing science, and therefore scientific materialism. 

This has been coupled with what I consider to be a hate message toward religious belief. There is even a slur-word, faith-head, which is used against religious believers. We are told that nothing short of naked contempt is deserved for people who believe in God, that their position merits ridicule and nothing but ridicule. 

One can, I suppose, try to escape the charge of hate by accepting some version "hate the belief, love the believer." But these are the same people who will respond to "hate the sin, love the sinner" with respect to homosexuality as proof of blatant bigotry. Why this is not blatant intellectual dishonesty is beyond my comprehension. 

Why could we possibly believe that, sooner or later, this whole mind-set will not erupt in violence on the part of somebody. Whether Hicks is that somebody or not is not the main thing I am bringing up for consideration. The step from viewing an idea as genuinely detestable to killing those who advocate the idea is not that big of a step, is it really?

Atheists might reply that since they've got evidence on their side, they won't need violence. But they are the same people who say that religious believers just won't listen to reason. So, what is to be done with them?

Just put "a new dark age" in for "hell" and you can see why someone might use force on behalf of atheism.
The more atheists insist that they are immune from the kind of temptation that leads to religious violence, the more concern I have. If you really think atheism leaves you with "nothing to kill or die for,"
then all I can give you is the Strait answer

I got some ocean front property in Arizona.
From my front porch you can see the sea.
I got some ocean front property in Arizona.
If you'll buy that, I'll throw the golden gate in free.

Friday, February 20, 2015

A Portrait of the North Carolina Killer


Doesn't hatred always have the potential for violence? Why are atheists immune to this?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Is heaven a bribe? C. S. Lewis on mercenary motives to do good

Is the only religious motive morality the fear of hell and the hope of heaven? Couldn't religion motivate someone to do what is right for other reasons, such as the desire to fulfill one's true purpose as a human being? 

“We are afraid that Heaven is a bribe, and that if we make it our goal we shall no longer be disinterested. It is not so. Heaven offers nothing that the mercenary soul can desire. It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to. There are rewards that do not sully motives. A man's love for a woman is not mercenary because he wants to marry her, nor his love for poetry mercenary because he wants to read it, nor his love of exercise less disinterested because he wants to run and leap and walk. Love, by definition, seeks to enjoy its object.”

― C.S. LewisThe Problem of Pain

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Friday, February 13, 2015

People who have seen God


Theme Song for Religion and Morality: Will Your Lawyer Talk to God for You?

Country Singer Kitty Wells makes a religious appeal against a husband who has wronged her. This seems to show a role that religion plays in at least some contexts for morality. It goes without saying that if atheism is true, the song makes no sense. 


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Plantinga's case against the classical foundationalist account of properly basic beliefs

Basically he says that the criterion refutes itself. 


Plantinga proposes a negative and a positive way of addressing this problem. The negative way seeks to demonstrate that the evidentionlist project will not hold up. The positive way seeks to offer a rationale for Reformed Epistmeology. 
The Negative (analytical) Argument

Plantings grants those propositions which are self-evident, evident to the senses, or incorrigible are properly basic. Plantinga's objection is with the evidentialist who claims that only these propositions are properly basic. Plantinga wants to include other beliefs (such as belief in the past, belief in other minds, etc.)

The foundationalist contention is presented as (19):
    (19) "A is properly basic for me only if A is self-evident or incorrigible or evident to the senses."

Plantinga argues that one is rational in accepting (19) only if either (19) is properly basic or (19) relates to propositions which are properly basic. Now, Plantinga thinks that its obvious that (19) is neither self-evident, evident to the sense, nor incorrigible. Therefore , Plantinga makes the following claims:
    N1 - (19) is not properly basic.
    N2 - since no one has demonstrated that (19) relates to propositions which are properly basic, then, Plantinga asserts, not only is there no compelling reason to accept (19) but also to do so would be epistemologically irresponsible (on Clifford's criterion - there is not sufficient evidence).
This is the negative critique of evidentialism. It's Plantingas strongest argument.

Mutual Assured Destruction

John Loftus has been defending ridicule. I wonder if he has seen all the implications of his position. 
OK, but consider people like Holding, Hays, and Ilion. These people are Christians who regularly use ridicule. Ilion, for example, thinks that I am way too nice, and says so on a regular basis. I say that niceness isn't the real issue, that in discussions of this type ridicule tends to feed the suspicion that the objects of ridicule are not being adequately represented. If you can ridicule and accurately represent at the same time that's quite an accomplishment. Effective critique of an opposing viewpoint requires the use of, for example, the principle of charity, which just doesn't go together with ridicule.
But do you now see that your arguments for ridicule could just as easily be used by Christian apologists. If I remember correctly, you wanted me to ban one of more people on my site who you thought weren't civil. But if your argument works for you against, say, Jeff Lowder, it means that, in the in-house debate on our side, my ridiculing colleagues are right and I am wrong. I need to get nastier.
Now I suppose you can say that since my arguments are good and my colleagues' arguments are bad, that you have earned the right to use ridicule but they haven't. But THEY think they also have good arguments, and that gives THEM the right to ridicule. We would then be, on my view, headed on the road to mutually assured destruction.
Now I suppose you can take the Dawkins line and say that "our ridiculers are smarter and wittier than your ridiculers."
RD: You might say that two can play at that game. Suppose the religious start treating us with naked contempt, how would we like it? I think the answer is that there is a real asymmetry here. We have so much more to be contemptuous about! And we are so much better at it. We have scathingly witty spokesmen of the calibre of Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris. Who have the faith-heads got, by comparison? Ann Coulter is about as good as it gets. We can’t lose!
But I wonder how well that would hold up against the Outsider Test for Ridicule. Is Dawkins maybe a little biased? Has he read J. P. Holding? I'll bet not.
And do you really want the issue settled on these grounds in any event?

Monday, February 09, 2015

The positive existence claim has the burden of proof, or does it?

 It is often argued that if you are making the positive existence claim, you have the burden of proof. Thus 

1) God exists

has the burden of proof, while

2) God does not exist

does not. 


1) The external world exists

has the burden of proof while

2) The external world does not exist

does not.

Friday, February 06, 2015

The brain in the vat and the burden of proof

Any reason to think it isn't true? One way around this is to shove the burden of proof to the other side. In fact, you can win any debate just by shoving the burden of proof to the other side, because you can ask for proof for the proof, and then proof for the proof for the proof, and then proof for the proof for the proof for the proof, and then proof for the proof for the proof for the proof for the proof......., until your opponent gets tired. 

Six Naturalistically Problematic features of Reason

(1) Reason isn’t just pragmatically useful; indeed, it is self-refuting and circular to assert that it is.
(2) Reason isn’t a contingent, local, perspectivalist feature of our evolved nature. It has universal applicability. Evolution produces local, contingent dispositions, not universal, necessary ones.
 (3) Reason is intrinsically normative.
(4) Reason takes us beyond appearances to the hidden, intelligible structure of the world.
(5) In contrast to the senses, which put us in contact with objects via causal chains, reason is not mediated by mechanisms that could be selected by evolutionary processes; rather, reason puts us in immediate, direct contact with the rational order.
(6) Reason is active and involves agency (for example, it isn’t Sphexish); sensation is passive. 

See J. P. Moreland's review here

What is the evidence...

That our sense experience is veridical? That we are not brains in vats and our experience is not systematically false?

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Why mental states are not physical states

If mental states are physical states, then the truth about what someone believes should follow necessarily from the state of the brain/physical world. But it doesn't. If we line up all the physical facts, we have every atom traced, the argument from The brain is in state X therefore he must believe, say, that God exists, cannot follow necessarily. The state of the physical always leaves the state of the mental indeterminate. But what my thought is about is determinate, not indeterminate. Therefore my belief is not a physical state.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

C. S. Lewis on authority

“Don't be scared by the word authority. Believing things on authority only means believing them because you've been told them by someone you think trustworthy. Ninety-nine per cent of the things you believe are believed on authority. I believe there is such a place as New York. I haven't seen it myself. I couldn't prove by abstract reasoning that there must be such a place. I believe it because reliable people have told me so. The ordinary man believes in the Solar System, atoms, evolution, and the circulation of the blood on authority -because the scientists say so. Every historical statement in the world is believed on authority. None of us has seen the Norman Conquest or the defeat of the Armada. None of us could prove them by pure logic as you prove a thing in mathematics. We believe them simply because people who did see them have left writings that tell us about them: in fact, on authority. A man who jibbed at authority in other things as some people do in religion would have to be content to know nothing all his life.” 
― C.S. LewisThe Case for Christianity

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Is it a mistake for Nagel to concentrate on reductive materialism?

I think some confusion is generated by his use of the term “reductionism” to describe the naturalistic position of which he is critical. Materialism is typically divided into three types, eliminative, reductive, and non-reductive materialism. On the face of things, by concentrating on reductive materialism, it might seem that he is letting the non-reductive materialists off the hook with his arguments, and this perhaps comprises the largest group of philosophers that call themselves materialist.
William Hasker, in The Emergent Self, (Ithaca, 1999), developed a tripartite definition of minimal materialism which, I believe works also for naturalism. That is, I don’t think any view can be thought to be genuinely naturalistic unless it satisfies these three requirements. And I think a position with these three characteristics is what Nagel is thinking of when he talks about reductive materialism. It is the view that
1)      At the basic level, reality is mechanistic. That is, it lacks intentionality, subjectivity, purposiveness, and normativity. None of these items can enter into a description of reality at the basic level of analysis.
2)      The basic level of analysis (which we typically call physics), is causally closed.
3)      Whatever else exists must supervene on the basic level. It must be the sort of think that must be the way it is because the physical is the way it is.

Andrew Melnyk maintains that “Naturalism claims that nothing has a fundamentally purposeful explanation…Naturalism says that whenever an occurrence has a purposeful explanation, it has that explanation in virtue of certain nonpurposeful (e.g. merely causal) facts.” And the failure to the mental on the ground floor of reality, so say that our minds can understand the world,  ultimately, because mind is fundamental to reality and not simply a byproduct of it, is what Nagel sees as ultimately wrong with the all the positions he is calling “reductivist.”

Nagel on Plantinga

I say this as someone who cannot imagine believing what he believes. But even those who cannot accept the theist alternative should admit that Plantinga’s criticisms of naturalism are directed at the deepest problem with that view—how it can account for the appearance, through the operation of the laws of physics and chemistry, of conscious beings like ourselves, capable of discovering those laws and understanding the universe that they govern. Defenders of naturalism have not ignored this problem, but I believe that so far, even with the aid of evolutionary theory, they have not proposed a credible solution. Perhaps theism and materialist naturalism are not the only alternatives.