Thursday, September 29, 2016

Denying the cat

Modern masters of science are much impressed with the need of beginning all inquiry with a fact. The ancient masters of religion were quite equally impressed with that necessity. They began with the fact of sin—a fact as practical as potatoes. Whether or no man could be washed in miraculous waters, there was no doubt at any rate that he wanted washing. But certain religious leaders in London, not mere materialists, have begun in our day not to deny the highly disputable water, but to deny the indisputable dirt. Certain new theologians dispute original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved. Some followers of the Reverend R. J. Campbell, in their almost too fastidious spirituality, admit divine sinlessness, which they cannot see even in their dreams. But they essentially deny human sin, which they can see in the street. The strongest saints and the strongest sceptics alike took positive evil as the starting-point of their argument. If it be true (as it certainly is) that a man can feel exquisite happiness in skinning a cat, then the religious philosopher can 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.-G. K. Chesterton

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Why can't I steel? From

Morals are based off something

Who are we to say steeling is bad. Isn't it just a means to survive. Like evolution is just saying we are here to survive. Morals have to come from a greater power who understands everything and sees everything to make a fair statement steeling is wrong. Not just wrong it is a sin. Without religion there is nothing to back us up. When a child ask why cant i steel. You cant just say because i said so. The Child needs to see why you said so.

OK, this person needs to take my daughter's English class. 

If you are raised in a religious home, even if you stop believing, you are still affected by the upbringing, so it would be unreasonable to expect you to just abandon morality. Your emotions have been trained to be moral. C. S. Lewis writes:

Without the aid of trained emotions the intellect is powerless against the animal organism. I had rather play cards against a man who was quite sceptical about ethics, but bred to believe that "a gentleman does not cheat," than against an irreproachable moral theologian who had been brought up among card sharpers. 

On the other hand, does this leave you with an answer to the child's question? 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Christian Left Blog

Some of you won't like this, but it's here. 

Blackwell Reference Guide on Brute Fact

M etaphysics, epistemology Also called bare fact. In an absolute sense, a fact that is obtained or explained by itself rather than through other facts and that has a fundamental or underlying role in a series of explanations. We normally cannot give a full account why the fact should be what it is, but must accept it without explanation. The first principles of systems of thought generally possess such a status. Brute facts correspond to causa sui or necessary existence in traditional metaphysics and are ultimately inexplicable. For empiricism , what is given in sense-perception is brute fact and provides the incorrigible basis of all knowledge. In a relative sense, any fact that must be contained in a higher-level description under normal circumstances is brute in relation to that higher-level description, although in another situation the fact could itself become a higher-level description containing its own brute fact. “There is something positive and ineluctable in what we sense: in its main features, at least, it is what it is irrespective of any choice of ours. We have simply to take it for what it is, accept it as ‘brute fact’.” act

Monday, September 26, 2016

Chesterton on the danger of reading only one's own Bible

'Sir Arthur St. Clare, as I have already said, was a man who read his Bible. That was what was the matter with him. When will people understand that it is useless for a man to read his Bible unless he also reads everybody else's Bible? A printer reads a Bible for misprints. A Mormon reads his Bible, and finds polygamy; a Christian Scientist reads his, and finds we have no arms and legs. St. Clare was an old Anglo-Indian Protestant soldier. Now, just think what that might mean; and, for Heaven's sake, don't cant about it. It might mean a man physically formidable living under a tropic sun in an Oriental society, and soaking himself without sense or guidance in an Oriental Book. Of course, he read the Old Testament rather than the New. Of course, he found in the Old Testament anything that he wanted -- lust, tyranny, treason. Oh, I dare say he was honest, as you call it. But what is the good of a man being honest in his worship of dishonesty?" 


Gays beat up a Christian preacher at gay pride parade

Here. Imagine what would have happened if the violence had gone the opposite way?

Was Bertrand Russell and Empiricist?

He is often portrayed as one. However, consider this from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

c. A Priori Principles

Against logical positivism, Russell thinks that to defend the very possibility of objective knowledge it is necessary to permit knowledge to rest in part on non-empirical propositions. In Inquiry into Meaning and Truth (1940) and Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits (1948) Russell views the claim that all knowledge is derived from experience as self-refuting and hence inadequate to a theory of knowledge: as David Hume showed, empiricism uses principles of reason that cannot be proved by experience. Specifically, inductive reasoning about experience presupposes that the future will resemble the past, but this belief or principle cannot similarly be proved by induction from experience without incurring a vicious circle. Russell is therefore willing to accept induction as involving a non-empirical logical principle, since, without it, science is impossible. He thus continues to hold that there are general principles, comprised of universals, which we know a priori. Russell affirms the existence of general non-empirical propositions on the grounds, for example, that the incompatibility of red/blue is neither logical nor a generalization from experience (Inquiry, p. 82). Finally, against the logical positivists, Russell rejects the verificationist principle that propositions are true or false only if they are verifiable, and he rejects the idea that propositions make sense only if they are empirically verifiable.

Some criticisms of Mere Christianity

From Daylight Atheism.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

William Lane Craig on C. S. Lewis


What does it mean to say that religion is personal?

What do we mean when we say religion is very personal to every individual. It sounds so very American (and so un-American to deny) but what does it mean?

Monday, September 19, 2016

Evidence, Design, and Alternative Histories of Science

Some of us are fans of alternative history. There is a whole genre of literature on what might have happened if something had happened that didn't. Some examples:

What if John Wilkes booth had missed?

What if the Nazis had won World War II?

What if Gore had won the 2000 election?

What if Monica Lewinsky had taken her dress to the dry cleaners.

What if the Tartars had not stopped their attacks in Europe?

What if Oswald hadn't made it to the top floor?

With respect to science, it seems as if those who claim that scientific evidence has established something, there has to be an alternative history of science that would have established the opposite.

So, when people like Dawkins say "The evidence of evolution reveals a universe without design", then are they not presupposing the existence of an alternative history of science in which the evidence concerning evolution reveals a universe with design? 

But if this alternative history had taken place, would the design inference have also been dismissed as methodologically unacceptable, and an example of IDiocy? 

Heads I win, tails you lose. 

On the limits of the principle of simplicity

By Alexander Pruss. It's important not to overuse Ockham's Razor.


Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Cosmic Authority Problem, the Rebellion Thesis, and the Cancellation Thesis

In th final chapter of The Last Word, “Naturalism and the Fear of Religion,” he talks about the role the fear of religion plays in much thought today. In doing so he highlights some Platonistic elements in the thought of Charles Sanders Peirce, who, he maintains, is not the pragmatist that he is typically thought to be. He maintains that people have taken Peirce’s pragmatic theory of belief as central to his philosophy, when he actually maintained that belief (as defined somewhat idiosyncratically by Peirce, oriented around what we act on) had no place in science, which Peirce regarded as the pure pursuit of truth.  What Peirce is presupposing, to which Nagel finds a great deal that is congenial, is the idea that there is an inherent sympathy between our minds and nature that permit us to know it. This involves something that is true of reason itself, and not merely about how we think. This, he believes, moves us toward rationalism as opposed to empiricism in epistemology, and to a position that has what he calls a quasi-religious ring to it. He writes.
I admit that this idea---that the capacity of the universe to generate organisms with minds capable of understanding the universe is itself somehow a fundamental feature of the universe---has a quasi-religious “ring” to it, something vaguely Spinozistic. Still, it is this idea, or something like it, which Peirce seems to endorse in the passages I have quoted. And I think one can admit such an enrichment of the fundamental elements of the natural order without going over to anything that should count literally as a religious belief. At no point does any of it imply the existence of a divine person, or a world soul. 
            Here the fear of religion plays a role. He admits that he, like many secular philosophers, has an aversion to accepting arguments that might lead to religious beliefs.  While religious believers are often accused of drawing their conclusions because of wishful thinking and an unwillingness to give up their cherished religious beliefs, Nagel thinks that the desire to avoid religious conclusions drives many thinkers to accept reductionism and scientism without adequate justification. He writes:
In speaking of the fear of religion, I don’t mean the entirely reasonable hostility to certain established religions and religious institutions, in virtue of their objectionable moral doctrines, social policies, and political influence. Nor am I referring to association of many religious beliefs with superstition and acceptance of evident empirical false hoods. I am talking about something deeper---namely, the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true, and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God, and naturally, I hope that I am right in my belief. I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.
Nagel refers to these desires as the Cosmic Authority Problem.
Sometimes this passage in Nagel is used to as an admission of the irrationality of atheism, a position described by Randal Rauser as the Rebellion Thesis. I do not see this passage as an admission of irrationality. Many Christians hope that there is a God, and want the universe to be a theistic universe. This in and of itself doesn’t prove that they are irrational in believing in God. I hope my wife is faithful, and have excellent reason to believe that she is. However, some in the debate concerning theism maintain that only theists could possibly have ulterior motives for what they believe, while atheists could only deny God because the evidence leads them to do this, that no non-rational motives could possibly be operative in them. This is the “No Nonrational Motive Thesis,” a thesis often held by people who hold what I will call the Wish Fulfillment Thesis. According to the Wish Fulfillment thesis, religious beliefs are invariably held in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary through the force of the wish on the part of believers that it be true. The idea behind the No Nonrational Motive Thesis is that the prospect of extinction when we die, and the absence of any given purpose for our existence, is so unhospitable to the human mind that only the absence of good evidence in its favor could possibly motivate anyone to reject religious beliefs. In my view, the Cosmic Authority Problem refutes this contention.
As opposed to the Wish Fulfillment Thesis and the Rebellion Thesis, I am inclined to accept the Cancellation Thesis, proposed by C. S. Lewis in “On Obstinacy of Belief.” He writes:
Thus instead of the one predicament on which our opponents sometimes concentrate there are in fact four. A man may be a Christian because he wants Christianity to be true. He may be an atheist because he wants atheism to be true. He may be an atheist be-cause he wants Christianity to be true. He may be a Christian because he Wants atheism to be true. Surely these possibilities cancel one another out? They may be of some use in analysing a particular instance of belief or disbelief, where we know the case history, but as a general explanation of either they will not help us. I do not think they overthrow the view that there is evidence both for and against the Christian propositions which fully rational minds, working honestly, can assess differently.

            For Nagel, the Cosmic Authority Problem accounts for the “ludicrous overuse” of evolutionary biology to explain everything about life, including everything about the human mind. He thinks we should resist the intellectual effects of the fear of religion in much the same way that we should resist the wish to accept religion. However, he thinks that atheists can absorb a belief in irreducible mind-world relations just as one can accept the irreducibility of the laws of physics.  Thus, while he thinks that this irreducibility doesn’t actually support theism, nevertheless the fear of religion leads many naturalistic thinkers to reject this kind of irreducibility. 

Kasparov on Trump and Putin.


Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Atheism's Real Child Abuse

Suppose someone were to make the following argument.
Atheists are guilty of child abuse. People who die in their sins without knowing Jesus Christ are condemned to hell, yet atheists do worse than nothing to insure that their children are saved from this terrible fate. Exposing children to everlasting punishment is child abuse if anything is, far worse than any abuse they might suffer through being sexually abused. So not only are atheists child abusers, their child abuse if far worse than that inflicting on children by child molesters.
There is an obvious rebuttal to such a claim of course. It is that atheists, ex hypothesi, do not believe that eternal punishment is real, so of course they can hardly be criticized for failing to prevent their children from being eternally punished.
But, by the same token, can Dawkins criticize Christians who believe that there is eternal punishment, and present Christianity to their children as true to prevent them from being eternally punished? Given what they believe, what else does he expect them to do? Isn’t Dawkins open to the same rebuttal that could be given to child abuse charge issued by the above hypothetical Christian.
Now, of course, Christians come in different varieties with respect to the doctrine of hell. There are exclusivists, inclusivists, and universalists. But most Christians think that teaching one’s children Christianity will make it more likely that one’s children will be saved. 

Penn Jillette wrote: 

“I’ve always said that I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and a hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward—and atheists who think people shouldn’t proselytize and who say just leave me along and keep your religion to yourself—how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?
“I mean, if I believed, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that a truck was coming at you, and you didn’t believe that truck was bearing down on you, there is a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that.”

Monday, September 05, 2016

What is naturalism, that we should be mindful of it? W. P. Alston quotes O. K. Bouwsma


 Bouwsma has some fun at the expense of some of the contributors to a 1944 volume entitled Naturalism and the Human Spirit, many of whom characterized naturalism in the methodologically scientistic way I have been utilizing. For example, he quotes William Dennes as saying: "There is for naturalism no knowledge except of the type ordinarily called scientific", and responds as follows.

Notice first the form of Dennes's sentence. Mr. Ringling might say: "There is for Ringling Brothers no elephant except of the type ordinarily called big." Does Mr. Ringling intend to deny that there are any little elephants? Does he mean that besides Jumbo and Mumbo there is no little Nimblo? I think he means no more than that there is a difference between big elephants and little elephants, and that Mr. Ringling has no use for little elephants. If you tried to sell him one, he wouldn't buy. He can't use any. Or try this sentence: "For all the boys in our alley, there's no girl but pretty Sally." What, have the boys in our alley seen no girl but pretty Sally? Don't be silly. Of course, they know Helen and Ruth and Betty. It's just a way of saying that above all the girls they know, they prefer Sally. And this is now the way in which we are to understand Mr. Dennes?…In this case…Mr. Dennes might have admitted other types of knowledge too, but would in this instance merely have intended to say: "Well, so long as I have my choice, let mine be scientific"…If Mr. Dennes prefers blondes or gas-heat or lemonade or a hard mattress or scientific knowledge, well, that's all there is to it.

 Bouwsma then goes on to scrutinize a formulation of Krikorian.

 Before we settle these matters, let us inspect Krikorian's sentence. It is: "For naturalism as a philosophy, the universal applicability of the experimental method is a basic belief." Consider the parallel sentence of the vacuum cleaner salesman: "For vacuumism as a philosophy, the universal applicability of the suction nozzle is a basic belief." He may argue to himself: "If I ever give this up, I'll never sell another vacuum cleaner. It is basic." To the house-wife who asks: "And can you use it to dust books?" he replies: "Of course". And when he shows her and finds that it does not do so well, does he deny the universal applicability of the nozzle? No such thing. He may complain that he himself is not skillful, or that what seems like dust to the house-wife is not dust. The universal applicability of the nozzle is now the touchstone of dust. If the nozzle is applicable, it's dust. If it is not applicable, it is not dust. There is much more of this in the essay, but that is sufficient to give the general line.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Where do these conversations go wrong?


What causes these conversations to go wrong? The most common reason is that believers launch into a defense of the faith before finding out anything at all about the skeptic.