Sunday, February 18, 2018

Bonnette on Brute Facts vs Sufficient Reason

Thomist philosopher Dennis Bonnette has written a number of articles that defend the tenets of Thomism in the face of modern science.  I previously addressed one of them here.  Bonnette places metaphysics above science, and explains away discrepancies between them by downplaying or ignoring the realities of physics.  In another article that focuses on the subject of brute facts and the Principle of Sufficient Reason, Bonnette presents a distorted view of science to make it seem compatible with his religious dogma.  This is precisely the kind propaganda that Thomists rely upon to justify the false belief that their Medieval philosophy is fully consistent with modern science.  But a more realistic view of science and reality would refute Bonnette's story.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Ten Tips For Atheists

Christian apologist John Dickson wrote an article some time ago with the purported object of promoting productive dialog between Christians and atheists.  It contains ten pieces of advice for the atheist to follow that he feels will advance this objective.  I applaud him for his effort, but I have to take issue with him on a number of points.  I'll address them one by one.  At the same time, I think there are a number of things that he (as well as other Christians who want to engage in robust debate with atheists or skeptics) might want to think about.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Extraordinary Claims - Who Needs Evidence?

Most reasonable people understand what Carl Sagan meant by his expression: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”  If someone tells me that an everyday event occurred, I have little or no reason to doubt the truth of that claim.  But if they tell me something occurred that rarely or never happens, it would be reasonable to doubt that claim unless they provide sufficient reason for me to believe it.  What is sufficient reason?  Obviously, it depends to some degree on the person who is being convinced.  Is that person credulous or skeptical?  Is there motivation to believe?  Sagan's expression assumes a person who isn't credulous or motivated by other factors to believe the claim.  Some people will believe anything.  Some are motivated to believe for reasons other than sufficient evidence.  In that case, they may try to deny the value of evidence in an effort to discredit skeptics.  Such is the case with Dean Meadows, Christian apologist at Apologia Institute.  Meadows presents three arguments against Sagan's epistemological rule of thumb.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Hinman's "Argument From TS"

Joe Hinman has made a rather obscure theistic argument based on philosopher Jacques Derrida's metaphysical concepts of the "Transcendental Signifier" (TS) and "Transcendental Signified" (TSed).  It is worth noting that Joe actually rejects the philosophical position of Derrida, which is basically that the existence of any Transcendental Signified is a myth.  But he accepts Derrida's metaphysical concept of the TS and the TSed as being valid, and he believes Derrida is wrong in positing that it doesn't exist.  I must admit that I am not familiar with Derrida's work, but I'll try to explain it from Joe's perspective, and walk through his argument, step by step.  So without further ado, let me state Joe's argument here:
1. Any rational, coherent, and meaningful view of the universe must of necessity presuppose organizing principles (Ops)
2. OP's summed up in TS
3. Modern Thought rejects TS outright or takes out all aspects of mind.
4. Therefore, Modern thought fails to provide a rational, coherent, and meaningful view of the universe.
5. minds organize and communicate meaning
6. Therefore universal mind, offers the best understanding of TS
7. Concept of God unites TS with universal mind therefore offers best explanation for a view that is Rational, Coherent, and Meaningful (RCM).

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Why Should an Atheist Convert?

Victor Reppert ridicules the idea that a "real atheist" would never convert to Christianity.  He links to an article by Matt Nelson called Why Atheists Change Their Mind: 8 Common Factors, that gives various arguments for belief in God.  When I read it, my first thought was that these are typical arguments for God, but they are not reasons for an atheist to change his mind.  While they may be convincing to some people (including some who call themselves atheists), they certainly aren't convincing to me.  And I'm sure that plenty of atheists who have a similar way of thinking, especially those who have a scientifically-oriented perspective, would also find these arguments lacking.  So that raises the question in my mind:  What does it mean to be a "real atheist"?

Sunday, January 28, 2018

What Is a Hyper-Skeptic?

The Christian blog run by apologist Bill Pratt is called Tough Questions Answered.  This blog appears to consist mainly of discussion and commentary about biblical matters - how to understand or interpret various biblical stories and passages, reconciliation of apparent discrepancies, etc.  While it's not unusual for sites like this to contain all manner of hare-brained religious apologia, I don't usually get too excited about such things.  But it also includes some articles that relate to science and skepticism.  And that tends to get my attention.  I like to see if the apologist takes an even-handed view of things that are based on facts and evidence.  One of his articles that might help me to answer that question is called You Might Be a Hyper-Skeptic of Christianity If ...  Pratt introduces it by noting that not all skeptics are alike.  A skeptic can be fair-minded, or he can be what Pratt calls a hyper-skeptic, "someone who will not ever consider any evidences, arguments, or reasoning given for Christianity". 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Testing For the Supernatural

Christian apologist Bill Pratt is confused.  That's not just my judgment - it's what he says himself, in an article called Can Science Test for the Supernatural?  The issue in his mind is whether science can test for "the supernatural".  Pratt's puzzlement is a somewhat sarcastic response to the apparent contradictory stances of various members of the scientific community regarding the limits of scientific inquiry.  His real goal is to show hypocrisy among skeptics.  He notes:
Those who hold a naturalistic worldview (the natural world is all that exists) seem to be divided on this subject.  Some naturalists deny that science can ever be used to test the existence of God and others affirm that science can test for the supernatural and that those tests have all turned out negative.  Still others, like evolutionary scientist Donald Prothero, appear to hold both views at the same time.  - Pratt
To be sure, there is a certain amount of disagreement among religionists as to whether science can say anything at all about supernatural claims.  But perhaps aside from a few accommodationists, not so much on the part of the scientific community.  You just have to understand what they are saying.  But in the interest of scoring a point for his side, Pratt seems to be deliberately obtuse in his analysis.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

God's Perfect Justice

In the commentary on my previous post, there was some discussion about what it means for God to be perfectly good or benevolent.  Most theists like to include some notion of justice in their definition, as a way to explain why God would mete out punishment for sin.  God is perfectly loving and merciful, but at the same time, he is just.  He must exact payment for our sins in a perfectly fair and impartial manner.  But justice seems to be in conflict with mercy.  In perusing the posts on Cross Examined, I came across an article that is relevant to this issue.  A commenter had noted
Justice is getting what you deserve. Mercy is getting LESS than what you deserve. Take your pick.
How can God be both just and merciful at the same time?  Al Serrato attempts to answer the question by explaining that God is just because he demands payment for sin, but he is also merciful because he allows someone else (Jesus) to pay the price for us.  But I have some problems with that explanation.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Does Evil Disprove Atheism?

Frank Turek presents a response to the Problem of Evil that attempts to turn the issue around, and make it an argument against atheism rather than an argument against God.  As you know, the Problem of Evil (POE) argues that the existence of evil in our world is logically inconsistent with the properties of omniscience, omnipotence, and omni-benevolence that are usually attributed to God.  Therefore God (if he exists) cannot have all three of those attributes, given the existence of evil.  The POE does not prove the non-existence of God, but it does present a strong logical argument that God cannot be what most Christians claim he is.  Most atheists find this argument quite compelling.  Theists, on the other hand, tend to explain away evil as something that God has no control over, not because he isn't omnipotent, but for other reasons that typically involve the free will of man.  I don't think Plantinga or any other religious philosopher has made a rebuttal th the argument that truly addresses the issue in a satisfying way.  That's why it is generally considered to be one of the most formidable arguments against God.  And that's why some theists, like Turek, prefer to duck the problem altogether.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Picking Cherries For God

He's at it again.  Over at Shadow To Light, Mikey has smeared Jerry Coyne with an accusation that has absolutely no basis whatsoever.  He says that Coyne is offended by PZ Myers' use of cherry-picking to distort the message of a "New Atheist" (Steve Pinker), by making the liberal Pinker seem to be part of the alt-right, but would happily agree with same tactics being used against a theist.  Of course, Mikey offers not a single shred of evidence to support this claim.  Because for people like Mikey, the truth has nothing to do with the anti-atheist narrative he is trying to purvey - that is, unless he can find an isolated fact that is useful to him.