Sunday, September 17, 2017

On Human Rights


I have been thinking about the topic of human rights lately.  Victor Reppert has raised the issue recently, first by pointing out an article in The Guardian from 2010 titled Do human rights exist? that denies the existence of human rights, as if to note the absurdity of the idea, and then writing a short post of his own that continues the same line of reasoning.  Victor says:
We might ask what evidence there is that rights exist. You have a feeling that everyone ought to be treated equally. Isn't that just your social conditioning? If you grew up in India, and were raised to believe that people occupy different positions in the caste system based on the Law of Karma, wouldn't you think that the idea that everyone was created (or evolved?) equal was slightly ridiculous? - Reppert
It is clear, at least in Victor's case, that this is intended as a kind of satire.  Victor is slaying two dragons with one arrow.  First, he seems to be ridiculing the notion that human rights might not exist, since they are self-evident by his way of thinking, even if some cultures may not agree.  Second, if you can accept that argument, then you can agree with him that John Loftus' Outsider Test for Faith is faulty as well.  I won't address the merits of Loftus' OTF in this article, but I would like to consider the question of human rights.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Bad Argument: Physicalism Can't Be True


Victor Reppert has come up with an argument that supposedly proves his contention that mind must precede the physical.  According to him, this argument does not rest on any assumption of the primacy of mind, which is the metaphysical notion that mental phenomena, such as rational thought or morality, can't possibly arise from any purely physical source, and therefore mind must exist at the most fundamental level of reality.  In fact, most people who hold this belief are theists who think that physical reality itself is the product of a mind.  This stands in stark contrast to physicalism, which is the metaphysical notion that physical reality is all there is in our world, and therefore any mental phenomena that exist must be a product of that physical reality.  While Victor's argument assumes neither of these metaphysical positions, it still contains a serious logical fallacy  Here it is, in its entirety:

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Dark Side of Irrational Discourse


Over at Shadow To Light, Mikey is at it again.  In his never-ending crusade against "New Atheists" and all things that he can construe as being an affront to his religionism, Mikey has shown once again that there is no room for rational debate of issues that touch on any topic where he holds religious-based beliefs.  This time, his decidedly emotional rant is about a TEDx Talk by Gregg Caruso on The dark side of free will.  Now, this talk isn't about religion, and it doesn't directly attack religious beliefs in any way, but it does make a comparison between beliefs associated with free will and those associated with determinism.  In particular, it contains a chart that shows the results of empirical studies making a correlation between free will belief and other associated ways of thinking that may have negative social consequences for society.  Those correlations are religiosity, punitiveness, "Just World" belief, and right wing authoritarianism.  Even though the talk didn't include any discussion religiosity or right wing authoritarianism - it was focused entirely on punitiveness and "Just World" belief - the mere fact that they were included in that list of correlations was enough to set Mikey off, accusing Caruso of being a "New Atheist":
Whoa! “Religiosity” is the “Dark Side.” It looks like the professor is peddling the “Religion is Evil” talking point of the New Atheist movement. As for “Right Wing Authoritarianism,” does this mean Left Wing Authoritarianism is correlated with a lack of belief in free will? Or maybe for the professor, there is no such thing as Left Wing Authoritarianism.

Monday, September 4, 2017

On The Equivalency of Fascist and Antifa


We've heard a lot about the antifa lately.  They've been making a lot of noise and garnering media attention - most of it negative.  President Trump called them out in his rally at Phoenix recently: "They show up in the helmets and the black masks, and they've got clubs, and they've got everything.  Antifa!"  The mainstream news Washington Post published this headline: "Black-clad antifa members attack peaceful right-wing demonstrators in Berkeley".   Up until the disgusting display of racist nationalism at Charlottesville last month, we all thought the neo-Nazis and white supremacist Trump supporters were the enemies of American democracy.  Now there's a new narrative.  Now it's the antifa.

Friday, September 1, 2017

The Anthropocentric Bias of Scientism


In a discussion with Mike Gerow at Metacrock's blog, he made a comment that I thought was worthy of more than a com-box reply.  Mike comes across a an intelligent person, but he still has a woefully uninformed understanding of topics in science that he brings into his own arguments.  In this comment, Mike reveals some serious misunderstandings about what science tells us regarding the concept of self and about evolution.  These failings are driven, at least in part, by his religious training, and deeply ingrained bias toward religious explanations whenever they come into conflict with scientific explanations.  Here is what he said:

Monday, August 28, 2017

God Is Great


As I watched news coverage of the extraordinary flooding in Houston due to Hurricane Harvey, I saw something that happens whenever a natural disaster occurs: people who have been rescued praise the glory of God.  This is hard for me to understand.  I get that they are  happy and grateful that they managed to survive, but if God is really making all this happen, then God just turned their lives upside-down.  Is this something they should be grateful for?  It seems to me that God wreaked havoc, and destroyed or ruined a lot of lives.  God didn't save them.  It was the dedicated efforts of brave people who did everything they could to mitigate God's disaster that saved their lives.  And it's those people who deserve the praise - not God.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Flat Earth - Belief That Numbs the Mind


Everyone has heard of the Flat Earth Society.  These are people who supposedly think the earth is actually flat, much like prevailing view in ancient times, when the earth was thought to be a flat object the the center or bottom of the world, covered by a dome-shaped firmament to which the stars were affixed.  This is the way it's described in the bible.  But that belief died out long ago, didn't it?  Well, mostly, particularly among the educated classes.  But a modern pseudo-scientific version of the flat-earth theory of has been enjoying something of a comeback, especially in the past few years.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

To Impeach, Or Not To Impeach


That is the question.  I watched Bill Maher last night and heard an interesting discussion between him and Gavin Newsom.  The question is whether it is better for Congress to remove Trump from office or let him continue for the remainder of his term.  Maher and Newsom hold different views on this, with Maher advocating removal, and Newsom arguing that we'd be better off leaving him in office.  It's an interesting question, and worth exploring a little more.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Thinking About Logic


I often wonder how a person who is trained in philosophy can be so utterly confused about logic.  It's not that they don't know the rules of logic, such as modus ponens, or that they are unable to apply those rules in a syllogism.  It doesn't take an education is philosophy to be able to construct an argument that follows the rules of logic.  Even an animal can reason something like this:  If I can unlatch the door, then I can escape.  But it does take a deeper level of understanding to be able to formally state what those logical rules are, and express them in symbolic terms.  The animal does not know that he us using modus ponens, despite the fact that he actually is using it in his primitive reasoning process.  But there are philosophers who don't see the distinction between using logic and thinking about logic.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Science Education And Reality


Victor Reppert has produced yet another stunning blog piece, called The authoritarianism of science education, that caught my attention because of its sheer ignorance.  It attempts to denigrate educational methods in science as being "authoritarian", and not "following the argument where it leads".  Here is the article in its entirety:
Science education is NOT an example of following the argument where it leads. If you do a chem lab and your results differ from those prescribed in the textbook, you are not to ask whether you  have made a new scientific discovery. No, you are asked to figure out where you made a mistake. - Reppert
I think it is worth commenting on this, not just to point out its ignorance, but because is illustrates the huge rift between scientific thinking and religious thinking, in general.  I'll get to that, but first, I need to explain why Victor is 100% wrong.