Thursday, October 19, 2017

How a Scientist Can Believe in God, Part 3


We now come to the end of my response to Albrecht Moritz' defense of theistic belief in a scientist.  Moritz presents 15 objections that an atheist might proffer in his article How can a scientist believe in God?, and attempts to debunk them.  Part 1 of my response is here, and part 2 is here. After addressing the last of his items, I will give a short summary.  I hope this hasn't been too drawn out for my readers.  Moritz makes some arguments, mainly for the benefit of his fellow believers, that don't hold water with scientifically-minded atheists, and that I feel should be answered.

Monday, October 16, 2017

How a Scientist Can Believe in God, Part 2


Continuing from my previous post, I address more of Albrecht Moritz' 15 objections from atheists against the compatibility between science and religious belief.  These objections are discussed in his paper How can a scientist believe in God?  Moritz is a scientist who believes in God, and defends that belief with sometimes unscientific explanations.  It seems clear that when he is outside his field of expertise, he often falls back on traditional theistic notions.  Without further ado, here is the next set of atheists' objections.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

How a Scientist Can Believe in God, Part 1


In my previous post, I reviewed an article by Albrecht Moritz that echoes the argument of Alvin Plantinga known as the Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism, which claims that naturalism is self-refuting.  Moritz is a Christian and a scientist who appears to be competent in his own field of science, but holds unscientific theistic beliefs in matters that fall outside his area of scientific expertise.  Given that science, broadly speaking, tends to confirm a naturalist view of the world, one wonders how someone like Moritz could be competent as a scientist and still believe in God and the supernatural.  The answer is fairly clear - you have to be able to compartmentalize.  Science could not progress if observed phenomena were simply explained in terms of supernatural causes, bringing any further investigation to a halt.  A successful scientist must pursue the question without regard to any religious ideology. 

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Albrecht Moritz: Theistic Scientist


Victor Reppert cited an article by Albrecht Moritz, called "Naturalism is true": A self-contradictory statement that is a variant of Alvin Plantinga' Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism.  It makes the claim that rational thought can't be produced from natural processes (and specifically evolution) alone.  I would probably dismiss this article as yet another scientifically ignorant theistic argument, not worthy of the time it would take me to make a refutation.  But Albrecht Moritz is a scientist, and he believes in evolution.  As he says:
Let me be clear from the onset towards those who believe this turns into yet another anti-evolution argument: I fully subscribe to the science of evolution and reject the idea of biological so-called Intelligent Design. I even have written a review article on the origin of life by natural causes - Moritz
Moritz works in micro-biology, and his paper in TalkOrigins provides support for a scientific view of abiogenesis.  This doesn't seem like your standard theistic rejection of science in favor of superstitious beliefs.  I was intrigued.  So I decided to look at this article more closely.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Theistic Causation: Abbreviated Reasoning


Theists have a Grand Unified Theory (GUT) that explains why everything exists and how everything works at the most fundamental level:  "God did it."  That doesn't mean they completely reject science and scientific methods.  It just means that when they reach the limits of their understanding through scientific means, they resort to the GUT.  Think of it like the interaction between an inquisitive child and her parent.  The child asks "Why?".  The parent responds with a brief explanation.  Probing further, the child again asks why, and the conversation proceeds in this manner until the exasperated parent no longer has an explanation, at which point he responds with a simple "Because."  That really doesn't answer the question, but at least it provides a stopping point, at which the child understands that no further explanations will be forthcoming, even if she isn't happy with the answer she got.  Likewise, the theists will happily cite scientific explanations until the limit of their scientific understanding is reached (or until the scientific explanation disagrees with their theistic beliefs), and they finally respond with "God did it."  At this point, the search for answers comes to an end.  No further explanation can be expected, even though there may still be many questions.

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Proof Is In the Pudding


I have been arguing with Joe Hinman (again) over his "warrant for belief".  This is an issue that crops up over and over again in any discussion with Joe, whenever the topic turns to evidence, or reasons for belief.  Joe invariably cites his supposed "200 empirical studies" that he claims provide a scientific basis for his thesis that belief in God is empirically warranted.  And this is the thrust of his book, The Trace of God.  Ever the salesman for his book, Joe rarely misses an opportunity to drum up a few sales by bringing those 200 studies into the discussion, even when that was not the topic.  In the latest round of discussion, he makes this juvenile claim: "I have 200 studies and you have none." My response to that is that those 200 studies don't prove what Joe thinks they do.  But that brings up a whole new issue:  Is Joe actually trying to prove something with his empirical studies?  If so, what is it?

Monday, September 25, 2017

Three Points About the Dark Ages


Christians, and especially the Catholic Church, love to whitewash their own failings by creating a revisionist history in which they are the heroes - the shining exemplars of virtue and wisdom, the light by which mankind emerges from the darkness, and the source of all good things that we have today.  Even in the 20th century, the church has (fairly successfully) created a revisionist version of their relationships with the fascist regimes of Hitler and Mussolini, covering up the fact that many church officials actively cooperated with and supported the fascists, and that the pope stood by in silence while the atrocities raged in Europe.  While there is plenty of documented evidence to dispute their modern revisionism, things become less clear-cut in the more distant past, when (at least in Europe) the church had more complete control over what could be published, and what should be suppressed.  The most obvious example of this historical revisionism is the New Testament, which is still believed by millions of Christians, despite modern historical and scientific advances that make it increasingly untenable.  And in between the modern era and the ancient, things were no different.  Christians also want to paint a revisionist picture of the time when the church dominated virtually every aspect of life and culture in Europe - the period that has come to be known as the Dark Ages.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Problem of Evil - the Nuclear Option


This is a topic that I addressed some time ago.  The Problem of Evil, or POE, is basically that the ubiquity of evil in our world is incompatible with a God who has the attributes of omnipotence, omniscience, and omni-benevolence.  The typical response from theists is that God has some good reason for allowing evil, and even that evil is necessary to fulfill God's plan.  People are evil by nature, and they must be granted free will so that they can rise above it and earn their place in heaven.  Bad things happen to teach us valuable lessons so that we will be worthy to abide with God, etc.  There are a number of such explanations, and they are called theodicies.

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: