Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Theistic Arguments Series:  Anselm's Ontological Argument

The following is an outline of Anselm's ontological argument for the existence of God:

    1. We conceive of God as a being than which no greater can be conceived.
    2. This being than which no greater can be conceived either exists in the mind alone or both in the mind and in reality.
    3. Assume that this being than which no greater can be conceived exists in the mind alone.
        a. Existing both in the mind and in reality is greater than existing solely in the mind.
        b. This being, existing in the mind alone, can also be conceived to exist in reality.
        c. This being existing in the mind alone is not therefore the being than which no greater can be conceived.
    4. Therefore, this being than which no greater can be conceived exists in reality as well as exists in the mind.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Biblical Modifications Series: The Reversal of Paul

Paul established much of the teachings and dogma of the early church.  His epistles are the oldest texts that form part of the New Testament.  One of those early teachings, found in Galatians 3:23-28, is that Christianity establishes of a new order, where many of the ways of the past are set aside.
Before this faith came, we were confined under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith was revealed.  The law, then, was our guardian until Christ, so that we could be justified by faith.  But since that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian,  for you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ like a garment.  There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Dawkins:  "Who made God?"

In response to my previous post, Victor Reppert criticizes Dawkins' answer to the Cosmological Argument this way:
Now, I think there is further discussion which might develop the "Who made God" response to more sophisticated version of the Cosmological Arguments, but a popular kind of response to arguments like Aquinas's and Craig's, sometimes given in intro philosophy classes, makes it seem as if they somehow didn't think to ask the question "Who made God," a question asked by most grade school children.
Now one thing I should point out right away is the fact that Dawkins is not a philosopher, but more importantly, his target audience was not philosophers.  He was addressing real people who may have been brought up in a religious environment, hearing the common arguments for God's existence.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Loftus, Reppert, and the Courtier's Reply

Victor Reppert made a remark about the Courtier's Reply that puzzled me:
One saving grace for John is that he has criticized the overuse of the Courtier's Reply, which essentially says "Your position is so stupid that we don't even have to bother to understand it to attack it."
I was puzzled because this definition of the Courtier's Reply is not what I understand it to be.  The Courtier's Reply is actually what theists use to attack atheists who reject belief in God without necessarily understanding all the details of every theistic argument or every particular religion they are rejecting. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Determinism, Fatalism, and Libertarian Free Will

Victor Reppert says:
Soft determinism is still determinism. And it's really not a different type of determinism. It is, rather, drawing different conclusions from determinism, or rather, not drawing the conclusion that we are not free and not morally responsible for our actions.
Despite the awkward wording, Victor is quite correct. Determinism (regardless of whether you call it soft determinism) does not imply either a lack of freedom or a lack of moral responsibility.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Historical Arguments for God

I read this article by Peter Kreeft with eight historical arguments for God, in the hopes that it would be based on evidence, and not just another piece of simple-minded apologetic clap-trap.  I should have known better.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

On the Humanity of Humans

Dave Duffy read Richard Dawkins' letter to his daughter on the occasion of her tenth birthday, and was saddened by it.  He asks me if I can help him out (provided, of course, that I have the humanity to carry on a conversation).  This is what he had to say:
my reaction (other than being impressed by his English skills), is one of sadness. I wonder if there is some atheist’s equivalent to Christian community for his daughter. Reflecting on a few of my experiences with my daughter: was there a group of ladies that brought over home-cooked meals for a couple of weeks to her mother after she was born while delivering experienced advice about newborns, some advice helpful, some politely dismissed. What about being ten years old and helping out adults on Sunday mornings and Tuesday evenings with rambunctious preschoolers, keeping them occupied while their parents had the opportunity to talk and study with other adults. Is there some atheist’s equivalent to Youth Group where she can sit around, eat pizza and talk with peers about avoiding the ruinous impulses of the current cultural malaise? Is there something like a high-school short term missions to impoverished countries to give some perspective and avoid being another self-absorbed teen? And most important, I don’t understand denying someone a place where God can make Himself known.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Political Rant: Republicans Are Dangerous to Your Health

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), millions of Americans who were previously unable to obtain it, now have healthcare insurance.  This despite the utter lack of support from Republicans, who voted uniformly against it, and who have voted to repeal it more than fifty times.

It turns out that allowing Americans to have access to healthcare is good for us in a number of ways. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Follow-up on the Cult of Victor Strikes Again

Victor Reppert has replied to my earlier post, where I claimed that he misrepresented the words of Victor Stenger.
What I implied, I-S, is that Stenger has a motivation for using force to suppress religious belief, not that he has an advocated using it. Christianity doesn't teach that violence should be used to suppress opposing beliefs, but it is quite true that people who think that there is a great deal of stake in maintaining a particular religion have a motive for using force if the opportunity presents itself.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Biblical Modifications Series: The Shepherd of Hermas

This is the first of a series of posts on changes to the bible.  I hope to discuss significant changes that have been made to biblical texts or the canon during the course of history, and the reasons behind those changes.  Please note that I am not a historian or a biblical scholar.  I base my information on what I have been able to learn from my own (admittedly non-scholarly) internet-based research efforts.  I try not to depend on dubious sources, but if I get some facts wrong, I would appreciate corrections.

This post is about one of the "lost scriptures" of the New Testament: the Shepherd of Hermas.  This book presents one of the best accounts of early Christian ethics and morality.  It is believed to be written in the mid second century, and its authorship remains in doubt, but is often attributed to Hermas, the brother of Pius I, Bishop of Rome, during the time of the Christian persecution.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Can a machine understand?

In a discussion about the immaterial nature of mind, an atheist asks: "Can an omnipotent God create a computer that has beliefs and knowledge?"

A theist replies:
What he was attempting to do is the moral-and-intellectual equivalent of "arguing" thusly: "Can 'God' create a square circle? No? I thought not. Thus, 'God' is not 'omnipotent'; thus, 'God' does not exist" -- which, as anyone can see, is really shitty "reasoning". But, you know, that's par for the course for 'atheists'.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Cult of Victor Strikes Again

I hate to pick on Victor Reppert so much, but he seems to be asking for it when he interprets the words of prominent atheists in a way that totally misrepresents their meaning and casts them in the most uncharitable light possible.  Inevitably, his followers, the Cult of Victor, pick up on these misrepresentations and start ranting about how terrible this atheist "gnu" is, and how all decent atheists should publicly disavow him, along with any other "gnu" that is on their list enemies.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Theistic Arguments Series: On the Impossibility of an Actual Infinite

One of the key concepts found in some theological arguments such as the Kalam Cosmological Argument is the assertion that the universe must have had a beginning, which is based on the notion that it is logically impossible for an "actual infinite" to exist.  Theists have made numerous defenses of this assertion.  It appeared in my previous post, where my interlocutor said:

This is a metaphysically untenable position. Why can't there be an eternal succession of people? Well, person one (p1) is going to have to give birth to them-self before they can give birth to p2. How can p1 give birth to them-self if they don't exist. Since contingent p1 can't be accounted for contingent are not accounted for, and so the whole chain fails to exist.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Theistic Arguments Series: Leibniz’s Cosmological Argument

In my previous post, I made several points about deductive arguments, briefly summarized here, with some additional discussion:

    1.  The argument should be stated precisely, using clearly defined terms. 
Imprecisely defined terms are the cause of endless debate over whether an argument succeeds.  They lead to equivocation.  Often, people will disagree about whether a particular statement is true because they don't interpret the statement in the same way.  I find that this situation can go unrecognized, and the parties to the debate end up talking past each other, without realizing that a statement means something different to each of them, and this can affect their view of the logical validity of the argument.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Theistic Arguments Series: On Philosophical Reasoning

Deductive reasoning is a mechanical process.  Logical processes consist of following a well-defined set of rules.  It doesn't take human intelligence to perform a series of logical operations to arrive at some conclusion.  There are machines that perform these processes without ever thinking about what they are doing.  They simply start with some known propositional conditions (which may be regarded as premises), apply the rules of logic, and arrive at the inevitable result that is entailed by the starting conditions.  For example,
    (proposition) Socrates is a man.
    (proposition) All men are mortal.
Then, by performing a series of operations that follow established rules of logic,
    (conclusion) Socrates is a mortal.
A computer is quite capable of performing these logical operations.  Once the conditions are established, the conclusion is a necessary consequence, regardless of the means used to perform those operations.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Theists' Attitudes Toward Atheism

Ed Feser describes what he sees as the kinds of attitudes atheists hold toward religious beliefs and practices, and in the process, reveals a bit of his own attitude toward atheists.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Quentin Smith is Wrong

Smith, an atheist philosopher of religion, makes a curious statement regarding hypothetical match-ups between naturalists who are not philosophers of religion (or specialists in the philosophy of religion, which I will call SPR for brevity) and theists who are.  Even if judged by a naturalist who is also an SPR, he says, "I expect the most probable outcome is that the naturalist, wanting to be a fair and objective referee, would have to conclude that the theists definitely had the upper hand in every single argument or debate."  It seems to me that this is a bit of bad philosophical reasoning.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

On Anti-Intellectualism

Victor Reppert has lashed out against the 'gnus' with his emotional response(*) to an article by James Lindsay that advocates eliminating theistic philosophy as a serious academic pursuit.  In the process, he has revealed himself as an anti-intellectual.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Apostasy as an Insult

I have seen the term 'apostasy' or 'apostate' used as an epithet on several occasions recently.  To me, the term has no pejorative connotation.  It simply means one who has abandoned his religious belief.  Yet, in the conversations where it appeared, it seems to be more than that.  It is meant to be an insult.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Challenge For Defenders of ID

A defender of intelligent design writes:
I would ask: how many books by ID proponents have you read?

Darwin's Black Box?
The Edge of Evolution?
Signature in the Cell?
Darwin's Doubt?
Nature's Destiny?

If all you've read are the fumbling critiques by folks like Dawkins, Matzke, talkorigins etc. then perhaps you shouldn't be so dismissive.
He then goes on to demand:
putting aside the historical origins of the ID movement, do you agree that one can conceptually distinguish design inferences from the supernatural? And if not, then why not?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Intelligent Design - Lying for Jesus

Ask any Intelligent Design adherent if ID is creationism, and he will invariably tell you that it isn't.  Discovery Institute says:
Does Discovery Institute favor including the Bible or creationism in science classes or textbooks?

No. Discovery Institute is not a creationist organization, and it does not favor including either creationism or the Bible in biology textbooks or science classes.

Is intelligent design theory the same as creationism?

No. Intelligent design theory is simply an effort to empirically detect whether the "apparent design" in nature acknowledged by virtually all biologists is genuine design (the product of an intelligent cause) or is simply the product of an undirected process such as natural selection acting on random variations.
Of course, the ID adherent is lying.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

McGrew and Boghossian Debate on Faith

In a recent debate about Boghossian's book, A Manual for Creating Atheists, Tim McGrew and Peter Boghossian disagreed on the definition of 'faith'.  Boghossian had given two definitions in his book, the first being "belief without evidence", and the second being "pretending to believe what you don't know".  It is understandable that Christians take exception to these definitions, because they are not consistent with what any Christian would say faith means to him.  One commenter said of Boghossian: "his idiosyncratic definition of faith is just that - i.e., made up and totally bogus" and calls him "arbitrary, pigheaded, and dogmatic".  Is this commenter being unfair?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Theistic Arguments Series:  Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism

This is part of a series of posts on arguments commonly used by theists.  Because I am a naturalist, I believe that all arguments that purport to prove theism or disprove naturalism are flawed.  Plantigna's argument against naturalism is no exception.  Saints and Sceptics recently summarized it this way:

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Am I a gnu?

This is something of a parting note to the folks at Victor Reppert's DI, as well as a new beginning for my efforts at expressing my ideas on my own terms.  I had the mistaken impression that public blogs are open forums for the exchange of ideas.  I was urged to leave Victor's blog, I think, for the crime of being a 'gnu', as they call it.