Wednesday, March 30, 2016

From Robert Larmer's 'is Methodological Naturalism Question-Begging

Larmer considers an argument as follows:

1) If one is a metaphysical naturalist then one should be a methodological naturalist. i. e. refuse ever to postulate nonphysical entities as the cause of a physical event.
2) One should not believe in nonphysical entities without good evidence.
3) There is no good evidence for nonnatural entities.
4) Therefore one should accept metaphysical naturalism, and by logical extension, methodological naturalism.

He then develops a dialogue between the metaphysical naturalist and his opponent over premise 3.

NN: I disagree that there is no good evidence for nonnatural entities.
MN: Such evidence cannot exist.
NN: Why not?
MN: Because any investigation of the causes of physical events must employ methdological naturalism, i. e., it must assume that it is never, in principle, legitimate to posit a nonnatural cause for a physical event.
NN: Remind me once more of your good reason for thinking that metaphysical naturalism is true.
MN: The good reason for thinking that metaphysical naturalism is true is that there is no good evidence that nonnatural entities exist. NN: Would methodological naturalism ever permit one to posit a nonnatural entity as the cause of a physical event?
MN: No. I have already made that clear.
NN: Let me get this right. Your acceptance of metaphysical naturalism is based on the fact that there exists no evidence that nonnatural entities ever cause physical events?
MN: Yes.
 NN: And your endorsement of methodological naturalism follows from your acceptance of metaphysical naturalism?
MN: Yes.
NN: This seems question-begging. You endorse metaphysical naturalism on the basis that there exists no evidence that nonnatural entities ever cause physical events, yet adopt a methodology that rules out the possibility of ever recognizing evidence of nonnatural causes. You are using your metaphysic to justify your acceptance of methodological naturalism, but your acceptance of methodological naturalism serves to guarantee that even if evidence for the existence of nonphysical causes exists it can never be recognized as such.

Rod Dreher's Sex After Christianity


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Is gay marriage enough?

Not for some activists, including Gloria Steinem and Barbara Ehrenreich. Here. 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

If Jesus was not resurrected, then what?

Here is a popular resurrection argument.

1. If Jesus was not resurrected, the something else happened.  Therefore some plausible story can be spelled out which explains the known facts naturalistically.
2. The most popular naturalistic explanations are the swoon theory, the hallucination theory, the theft theory, and the wrong tomb theory.
3. The swoon theory is not plausible. Jesus endured six trials, scourging, a crown of thorns, had a purple robe rubbing against his scourged back, endured crucifixion, and burial. Then he endured three days in the tomb with no medical attentions, pushed a huge stone out of the way, put a flying tackle on an entire Roman guard, and walked on pierced feet to greet his disciples. Why is that a less of a miracle than a resurrection?
4. The hallucination theory is also not plausible. Group hallucinations do not normally happen. If three people drop acid, they always experience different things, not the same thing. Also, hallucinations do not transform lives, and turn cowardly disciples like Peter into bold witnesses.
5. The stolen body theory is also implausible. If the disciples stole the body to advance the cause of Christ, they would have had to face the very people who got Jesus crucified. A successful career as a television was not in the cards for them, instead it was the same cross on which Jesus died. Neither the Romans nor the Jewish leaders had any reason to steal the body, either.
6. The wrong tomb theory is also not plausible. Would any reasonable person forget the location of loved one's grave who was buried only 72 hours earlier?
7. Therefore, there are no plausible naturalistic theories concerning what happened with Jesus.
8. Therefore, the only alternative left is that he was resurrected.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Islam without Sharia


Islam: Can Ijtihad make a comeback

Ijtihād( Arabic: “effort”) in Islamic law, the independent or original interpretation of problems not precisely covered by the QurʾānHadith (traditions concerning the Prophet’s life and utterances), and ijmāʿ (scholarly consensus). (Encyclopedia Brittanica). 

Discussed here.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

What does the Euthyphro really show?

It seems to me that the dilemma, as it is it typically used, is an argument in favor of the claim that moral values are metaphysically neutral. So, for example, it is used to show that Christian theism adds nothing to morality that would not be available to a metaphysical materialist. Yet. it comes in Plato's philosophy. Plato has a very strong metaphysics of morals, involving the Form of the Good. I think his actual argument is that a deity (and in this case a Greek deity such as Apollo) represents not too strong of a metaphysical foundation for morality, but too weak of one. Of course, Plato appealed to divine commands as the basis of his entire enterprise as a philosophical questioner (see the Apology). I think Plato would have agreed with religious believers today who think modern metaphysical materialism undermines morality. His morals are centered around the Theory of Forms, which are, if nothing else, nonmaterial entities. 

Christian theology treated Platonism (as opposed to Epicureanism, Stoicism, and even Aristotelianism) as the most friendly philosophical theory in the ancient world. Christian theology tended to absorb the Form of the Good into their conception of God, which might permit those philosophical concepts to get around the Euthyphro dilemma. 

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Aesthetic Arguments for the Existence of God

By Peter S. Williams. Here. 

I suggest that the four categories of aesthetic arguments for the existence of God deserve greater attention than has traditionally been the case. Secular philosophers, like Anthony O'Hear and Roger Scruton, recognize that aesthetics lends itself to religious treatment, and it is noteable how strong a pull towards God they feel when considering aesthetic phenomena. However, being unprepared to follow this evidence where it leads, secular philosophy ends either by denying the objectivity and meaningfulness of beauty, or by requiring a leap of blind faith into Schaeffer's `upper story' if the validity of aesthetic creativity and appreciation is to be retained. A theistic world-view, on the other hand, provides a natural environment for the existence, appreciation and rational understanding of aesthetic reality.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Evidence-based reasoning failures amongst the secular elite

This is a comment by Luke Breuer here. 

In this case, you may be interested in a few books which target a failure in (i) critical thinking and (ii) evidence-based reasoning:
In all these cases, the failures being examined are largely among the secular elite, not the religious masses. In Jesus' time, one reason the Pharisees' error was so great is that they were the epitome of excellence, the character ideals for everyone. If you wanted to be righteous, you became like them. In our time, the character ideals for the kind of population aren't measured by level of righteousness, but by ability to reason based on the evidence. What if, on average, those who are supposed to best be able to do this are pretty massive failures in areas critical to the future thriving of democracy?

From Lennox's God's Undertaker: Intelligent Design, Creationism, and Conceptual Confusions

At least some of the heat results from the fact that the term ‘intelligent design’ appears to convey to many people a relatively recent, crypto-creationist, anti-scientific attitude that is chiefly focussed on attacking evolutionary biology. This means that the term ‘intelligent design’ has subtly changed its meaning, bringing with it the danger that serious debate will be hijacked as a result.

Now ‘intelligent design’ strikes some as a curious expression, since usually we think of design as the result of intelligence – the adjective is therefore redundant. If we therefore simply replace the phrase with ‘design’ or ‘intelligent causation’ then we are speaking of a very respectable notion in the history of thought. For the notion that there is an intelligent cause behind the universe, far from being recent, is as ancient as philosophy and religion themselves. Secondly, before we address the question whether intelligent design is crypto-creationism we need to avoid another potential misunderstanding by considering the meaning of the term ‘creationism’ itself. For its meaning has changed as well. ‘Creationism’ used to denote simply the belief that there was a Creator. However, it has now come to mean not only belief in a Creator but also a commitment to a whole additional raft of ideas by far the most dominant of which is a particular interpretation of Genesis which holds that the earth is only a few thousand years old. This mutation in the meaning of ‘creationism’ or ‘creationist’ has had three very unfortunate effects. First of all it polarizes the discussion and gives an apparently soft target to those who reject out of hand any notion of intelligent causation in the universe. Secondly, it fails to do justice to the fact that there is a wide divergence of opinion on the interpretation of the Genesis account even among those Christian thinkers who ascribe final authority to the biblical record. Finally, it obscures the(original) purpose of using the term ‘intelligent design’, which is to make a very important distinction between the recognition of design and the identification of the designer. These are different questions. The second of them is essentially theological and agreed by most to be outside the provenance of science. The point of making the distinction is to clear the way to asking whether there is any way in which science can help us with the answer to the first question. It is therefore unfortunate that this distinction between two radically different questions is constantly obscured by the accusation that  intelligent design’ is shorthand for ‘crypto-creationism’ 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Nonadaptive order: a problem for Darwinism?

Stump your Darwinist friends by asking them to explain, in evolutionarily adaptive terms, biological features like the precise pattern of the maple leaf or of an angiosperm flower. "That's a fantastically serious challenge to Darwinism," says Discovery Institute biologist Michael Denton in this brief but delightful video conversation -- a "nightmarish scenario." Why? Because Darwinism by definition must justify such features, including the taxa-defining novelties, as having been seized upon by natural selection because they were adaptive. I mean, that pattern specifically and not some other.
It's the specificity that's the problem. This is a deep point by Denton. For classic evolutionary theory, the curse of non-adaptive order resides in the fact that non-adaptive patterns -- beautiful and complex ones -- absolutely pervade life. An aesthetic choice might explain the act of selection. But blind, dumb natural selection, focused like a laser beam on fitness, carefully designing these thing to be just as they are and no other way? Sorry, that doesn't fly.

The confirmatory fine-tuning argument

Robin Collins defends a more modest version of the fine-tuning argument that relies on a general principle of confirmation theory, rather than a principle that is contrived to distinguish events or entities that are explained by intelligent design from events or entities explained by other factors. Collins's version of the argument relies on what he calls the Prime Principle of Confirmation: If observation O is more probable under hypothesis H1 than under hypothesis H2, then O provides a reason for preferring H1 over H2. The idea is that the fact that an observation is more likely under the assumption that H1 is true than under the assumption H2 is true counts as evidence in favor of H1.
This version of the fine-tuning argument proceeds by comparing the relative likelihood of a fine-tuned universe under two hypotheses:
  1. The Design Hypothesis: there exists a God who created the universe such as to sustain life;
  2. The Atheistic Single-Universe Hypothesis: there exists one material universe, and it is a matter of chance that the universe has the fine-tuned properties needed to sustain life.
Assuming the Design Hypothesis is true, the probability that the universe has the fine-tuned properties approaches (if it does not equal) 1. Assuming the Atheistic Single-Universe Hypothesis is true, the probability that the universe has the fine-tuned properties is very small—though it is not clear exactly how small. Applying the Prime Principle of Confirmation, Collins concludes that the observation of fine-tuned properties provides reason for preferring the Design Hypothesis over the Atheistic Single-Universe Hypothesis.
At the outset, it is crucial to note that Collins does not intend the fine-tuned argument as a proof of God's existence. As he explains, the Prime Principle of Confirmation "is a general principle of reasoning which tells us when some observation counts as evidence in favor of one hypothesis over another" (Collins 1999, 51). Indeed, he explicitly acknowledges that "the argument does not say that the fine-tuning evidence proves that the universe was designed, or even that it is likely that the universe was designed" (Collins 1999, 53). It tells us only that the observation of fine-tuning provides one reason for accepting the Theistic Hypothesis over the Atheistic Single-Universe Hypothesis—and one that can be rebutted by other evidence.
The confirmatory version of the fine-tuning argument is not vulnerable to the objection that it relies on an inference strategy that presupposes that we have independent evidence for thinking the right kind of intelligent agency exists. As a general scientific principle, the Prime Principle of Confirmation can be applied in a wide variety of circumstances and is not limited to circumstances in which we have other reasons to believe the relevant conclusion is true. If the observation of a fine-tuned universe is more probable under the Theistic Hypothesis than under the Atheistic Single-Universe Hypothesis, then this fact is a reason for preferring the Design Hypothesis to Atheistic Single-Universe Hypothesis.
Nevertheless, the confirmatory version of the argument is vulnerable on other fronts. As a first step towards seeing one worry, consider two possible explanations for the observation that John Doe wins a 1-in-7,000,000 lottery (see Himma 2002). According to the Theistic Lottery Hypothesis, God wanted John Doe to win and deliberately brought it about that his numbers were drawn. According to the Chance Lottery Hypothesis, John Doe's numbers were drawn by chance. It is clear that John's winning the lottery is vastly more probable under the Theistic Lottery Hypothesis than under the Chance Lottery Hypothesis. By the Prime Principle of Confirmation, then, John's winning the lottery provides a reason to prefer the Theistic Lottery Hypothesis over the Chance Lottery Hypothesis.
As is readily evident, the above reasoning, by itself, provides very weak support for the Theistic Lottery Hypothesis. If all we know about the world is that John Doe won a lottery and the only possible explanations for this observation are the Theistic Lottery Hypothesis and the Chance Lottery Hypothesis, then this observation provides some reason to prefer the former. But it does not take much counterevidence to rebut the Theistic Lottery Hypothesis: a single observation of a lottery that relies on a random selection process will suffice. A single application of the Prime Principle of Confirmation, by itself, is simply not designed to provide the sort of reason that would warrant much confidence in preferring one hypothesis to another.
For this reason, the confirmatory version of the fine-tuning argument, by itself, provides a weak reason for preferring the Design Hypothesis over the Atheistic Single Universe Hypothesis. Although Collins is certainly correct in thinking the observation of fine-tuning provides a reason for accepting the Design Hypothesis and hence rational ground for belief that God exists, that reason is simply not strong enough to do much in the way of changing the minds of either agnostics or atheists.

C S Lewis on Scientism


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Monday, March 14, 2016

How would the God of the Old Testament reply to Dawkins?

Dawkins: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

But what if a being matching just this description were to, in fact, be real. Would he say back to Dawkins:

But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?'"

Some arguments for the historicity of John

Here.  Although John is supposed to be the latest of the gospels, it is the one that claims to be written by an eyewitness. And John seems clearly to have been Jewish and familiar with Jerusalem. .

Arguments for John's historicity were made in the 19th Century by Westcott.  Have they ever been answered?

HT: Eric Vestrup

Why shouldn't we treat some people as inferior?

Some of the most historically influential arguments for not treating groups of people are inferior are religious in nature. They say that everyone was created by God, Jesus died for everyone, therefore, no person, in virtue of being a member of a group, should be treated as inferior.

On the other hand, if you assume the secular view that human beings are in the groups they are in through evolution, then you have to deal with the idea that creatures are entitled to the survival advantages that evolution has provided them. Thus if being white, or male, gives you a position of power that makes you, (as opposed to others) better able to pass on  your (selfish) genes than other people, then why shouldn't you take advantage of that superior power?

I realize that the former kind of argument has not prevented religious people from exploiting others, nor has the second argument prevented secularists from being nonexploiters. But what would be the secularist rebuttal to the latter argument?

Two books on revelation

One by William Abraham, the other by Menssen and Sullivan. Here. 

From Menssen and Sullivan:

Sandra Menssen and Thomas D. Sullivan provide a straight- forward defense of using revelation to defend belief in God’s existence...Menssen and Sullivan specifically target what they call the “tacit assumption” of philosophy, namely, that one must show that God exists before one can ask whether God has revealed.
The tacit assumption is that a claim to have received a revelation can be evaluated only after the existence of God has been proved. In opposition to the tacit assumption, they make the following claim: If it is not highly unlikely that God exists, then it is reasonable to examine particular claims to revelation from God as evidence for God’s existence. It is not highly unlikely that God exists; therefore, it is reasonable to examine particular revelation claims as evidence for God’s existence. More boldly, they contend that if the existence of God is not highly unlikely, then a reasonable inquirer must actually examine a number of revelation claims before a judgment can be made that God does not exist.
Consider, they say, the proposal that a single person named Homer was responsible for the Iliad. In the course of history, many have rejected that possibility because it was believed that no preliterate person, such as Homer, could have composed such a work. Given the complexity and length of the poem, the argument reasoned, a single individual could have produced it only if that person had the capacity to write. If it were impossible for a preliterate person to produce the poem, no amount of contrary evidence internal to the poem would raise the likelihood that a single person produced it. In other words, the probability of an impossibility is zero and any evidence added to an impossibility does not improve the odds.
Suppose, however, that it were possible for a single individual, in a preliterate context, to produce such a long and complex poem. The probabilities change, and evidence for authorship does matter. Once such a possibility is recognized, then internal evidence derived from the content of the poem itself becomes relevant for judgments about authorship.
Menssen and Sullivan take revelation claims to be closely analogous to arguments about the production of the Iliad. If the possibility of God’s existence were nil, or next to nil, then no appeal to the internal content of revelation could support belief in the existence of God. On the other hand, if it is not highly unlikely that God exists, then just as it is relevant to look at the content of the Iliad to determine authorship, so is it reasonable to look at revelation claims for evidence of God’s existence.

HT: Triablogue

Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Argument from Reason and Natural Theology

III. The Argument from Reason and Natural Theology
We might ask the following question: In what sense is the argument from reason a piece of natural theology. The job of natural theology is supposed to be to provide epistemic support for theism. However, the argument from reason, at best, argues that the ultimate causes of the universe are mental and not physical. This is, of course, consistent with various world-views that other than traditional theism, such as pantheism or idealism.
It's a good idea to look at what happened in the case of the argument from reasons’s best-known defender, C. S. Lewis, to see how the argument contributed to his coming to belief in God. Lewis had been what was then called a "realist", accepting the world of sense experience and science as rock-bottom reality. Largely through conversations with Owen Barfield, he became convinced that this world-view was inconsistent with the claims we make on behalf of our own reasoning processes. In response to this, however, Lewis became not a theist but an absolute idealist. It was only later that Lewis rejected absolute idealism in favor of theism, and only after that that he became a Christian. He describes his discussions with Barfield as follows:
(He) convinced me that the positions we had hitherto held left no room for any satisfactory theory of knowledge. We had been, in the technical sense of the term, “realists”; that is, we accepted as rock-bottom reality the universe revealed to the senses. But at the same time, we continued to make for certain phenomena claims that went with a theistic or idealistic view. We maintained that abstract thought (if obedient to logical rules) gave indisputable truth, that our moral judgment was “valid” and our aesthetic experience was not just pleasing but “valuable.” The view was, I think, common at the time; it runs though Bridges’ Testament of Beauty and Lord Russell’s “Worship of a Free Man.” Barfield convinced me that it was inconsistent. If thought were merely a subjective event, these claims for it would have to be abandoned. If we kept (as rock-bottom reality) the universe of the sense, aided by instruments co-ordinated to form “science” then one would have to go further and accept a Behaviorist view of logic, ethics and aesthetics. But such a view was, and is, unbelievable to me. C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy (San Diego, Harcourt Brace, 1955), 208.

Lewis did not, however, embrace theism at this point. Instead, he opted for Absolute Idealism, a philosophy prevalent in Oxford in the 1920s, although it is not widely held today. He wrote of this again in Surprised by Joy:

It is astonishing (at this time of day) that I could regard this position as something quite distinct from Theism. I suspect there was some willful blindness. But there were in those days all sorts of blankets, insulators, and insurances which enabled one to get all the conveniences of Theism, without believing in God. The English Hegelians, writers like T. H. Green, Bradley, and Bosanquet (then mighty names), dealt in precisely such wares. The Absolute Mind—better still, the Absolute—was impersonal, or it knew itself (but not us?) and it was so absolute that it wasn’t really much more like a mind than anyone else….We could talk religiously about the Absolute; but there was no danger of Its doing anything about us…There was nothing to fear, better still, nothing to obey.

Nevertheless, further considerations drove Lewis out of idealism into theism. He wrote:
A tutor must make things clear. Now the Absolute cannot be made clear. Do you mean Nobody-knows-what, or do you mean a superhuman mind and therefore (we may as well admit) a Person? After all, did Hegel and Bradley and all the rest of them ever do more than add mystifications to the simple, workable, theistic idealism of Berkeley? I thought not. And didn't Berkeley's "God" do all the same work as the Absolute, with the added advantage that we had at least some notion of what we meant by Him? I thought He did. So I was driven back into something like Berkeleyanism; but Berkeleyanism with a few top dressings of my own. I distinguished this philosophical "God" very sharply (or so I said) from "the God of popular religion." There was, I explained, no possibility of being in a personal relation with Him. For I thought He projected us as a dramatist projects his characters, and I could no more "meet" Him, than Hamlet could meet Shakespeare. I didn't call Him "God" either; I called Him "Spirit." One fights for one's remaining comforts.So did the argument from reason that Lewis accepted make theism more likely in his mind? It certainly did. In his mind it gave him a reason to reject his previously-held naturalism. Now you might think of Absolute Idealism an atheistic world-view, but is does deny the existence of the theistic God as traditionally understood. However the playing field was now considerably narrowed.

Consider the following argument:
1. Either the fundamental causes of the universes are more like a mind than anything else, or they are not.
2. If they are not, then we cannot make sense of the existence of reason.
3. All things being equal, world-views that cannot make sense of the existence of reason are to be rejected in favor of world-views that can make sense of the existence of reason.
4. Therefore, we have a good reason to reject all worldviews reject the claim that the fundamental causes of the universe are more like a mind than anything else. 

Now if you want to hold out the idea that a idealist world-view is nevertheless atheistic, then my argument merely serves to eliminate one of the atheistic options. But suppose someone originally thinks that the likelihoods are as follows:
Naturalism 50% likely to be true.
Idealism 25% likely to be true.
Theism 25% likely to be true.

And suppose that someone accepts a version of the argument from reason, and as a result naturalism drops 30 percentage points. Then those points have to be divided amongst theism and idealism. Therefore the epistemic status of theism is enhanced by the argument from reason, if the argument is successful in defeating naturalism.

Dualism persists in the science of mind


Friday, March 11, 2016

A book entitled "A new kind of apologist"


Relevance for the present campaign?

“The vice I am talking of is Pride or Self-Conceit: and the virtue opposite to it, in Christian morals, is called Humility...According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere flea bites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.”

― C.S. LewisMere Christianity

When I look at Trump, all I see is arrogance.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

An AFR-related trilemma argument

On the question of human freedom, whose reality is denied by deterministic philosophy, Brigitte Falkenburg proposes another trilemma, a little different, because in this case any two of the three alternatives can be true, but then the third must be false. This is her trilemma:

  1. Physical causality is closed. In other words, physics is deterministic. Every physical phenomenon has been caused by other physical phenomena.
  2. Mental phenomena are different from physical phenomena. In other words, the mind is not controlled by physical phenomena. In a previous post I mentioned the four different answers given by philosophers to the mind problem. This assertion would correspond to the dualist approach, or perhaps to emergent monism.
  3. We can cause physical phenomena with our minds. That is, final causality is possible. Our intentions (mental phenomena) can have physical consequences (such as pressing a button).

Trump gets evangelical support, from nominal evangelicals


Thursday, March 03, 2016

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

David Marshall's case against Trump


Sean McDowell as an atheist impersonator

I think it is good for people to be able to take a certain amount of time and present oneself as if one were someone who believes the opposite of what one actually does. Sean McDowell, Josh's son, does that here.