Thursday, December 31, 2015

Playing the Theist Game

A dishonest (but typical) theist once said:
If the universe is too big, the atheist will say it proves God couldn't possibly be interested in our tiny planet. If it's too small, he'll say that just shows there's no God because He should have created something bigger.

If we're the only intelligent life out there, the atheist will say that shows there's no God, else why all that wasted space. And if the universe is crammed full of intelligent life, then once again, we're claimed to be beneath any self respecting deity's interest.

I could continue, but you get the drift. I have no interest in playing. - Prokop
Oh but he is playing a game.  He's playing the same game that theists always play.  It's called projection.  This is something I have discussed before.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Reason to Believe

Christians usually claim that the evidence for the gospel stories is very good, and that's why they are justified in believing them.  If a skeptic tries to tell them that the evidence really isn't that good, they never, ever listen to the reasons offered by the skeptic.  Instead, they tend to double down with one excuse after another to convince themselves that their belief is based on rock-solid evidence.  At the same time, they often try to minimize the value of historical evidence for other events that are generally accepted as having occurred in the course of history.  So on the one hand, they insist that their evidence is solid as any evidence can be.  On the other hand, if they are forced to admit that it's not so solid after all, they have the backup position that accepted history is based on equally bad evidence, and therefore, we should accept the gospel stories lest we be seen as using a double standard.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Hail Saint Teresa

It's time for the Catholic Church to pay Mother Teresa back for her lifetime of devotion to the interests of the church.  She is on the fast track for canonization, having been approved for the process years before the it would have been allowed by the official policy of the church, had that policy not been waived by Pope John Paul II.

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Christian Blind Spot

There's something about religion that renders its adherents utterly unable to see logical laws in matters that relate to their deeply held beliefs.  We're talking about people who may be, by all accounts, quite intelligent.  People who, when shown a logical argument that would support some other religion's God for example, will astutely tear that argument apart, attacking every flaw and weakness.  But when shown a similar argument for their own God, they can't see or won't accept those very same flaws and weaknesses.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Evidence On Both Sides

Victor Reppert knocks down the supposed assertion of atheists that there is no evidence for the existence of God.
A lot depends on what exactly one means by evidence. My own view of evidence, in the context of the discussion of God, is something that is more likely to be there if God exists than if God does not exist. Evidence against God would be something that is more likely to exist if there is no God than if there is a God. With that understanding, I think the fine-tuning of the universe is a clear case of something that is more likely to exist if there is a God than if there is no God, so it's evidence for God. The degree and kind of pain and suffering that exists in the world does seem to be something that is more likely without God than with God, so that's evidence against God.  Whether the positive evidence outweighs the negative evidence, to me, is the interesting issue. The no-evidence claim looks like a non-starter. - Reppert
Trouble is, the "no-evidence claim" is not the assertion that any reasonable atheist would make.  Generally, they hold that there isn't empirical evidence to support the existence of God.  Some may use the word 'evidence' when they mean 'empirical evidence' or 'objective evidence', but that is not to deny that theists have some kind of evidence for their beliefs.  It may be, however, a denial that they have good evidence for those beliefs.  Good evidence is objective and factual.  That's something theists lack.

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Politics of Division

The responses of the Republican presidential candidates and right-wing pundits to recent terrorist attacks in our country have been instructive.  There is a clear distinction between what they say about the San Bernardino attack and what they say about Planned Parenthood attack.  Rupert Murdoch's New York Post came out with a large headline that said "Muslim Murder" after San Bernardino.  Donald Trump touted his proposal to institute racial profiling targeting the Muslim community, and going after the families of Islamic attackers.  Ted Cruz was quick to declare that the attack should be considered "radical Islamic terrorism" before the facts of the case were in, and investigators at that time were still considering the possibility that it was a case of workplace violence.

What did Cruz have to say about Robert Dear after the Planned  Parenthood attack?  He castigated the media for trying to "blame him on the pro-life movement when at this point there's very little evidence to indicate that".  Cruz went on to repeat unsubstantiated rumors from right-wing internet sources that called Dear a "transgendered leftist activist".  Donald trump has refused to blame the Planned parenthood attack on the anti-abortion movement, but instead attributes it to mental illness.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Failure of Christian Ethics

Christians wonder what there is in an atheistic worldview that prevents us from doing whatever we please if we think we can get away with it.  That question illustrates the fundamental issue with Christian ethics.  It is the fact that for them, ethics are not the product of their own intellect or any naturally evolved sense of altruism - they do not come from within - they derive from and are imposed by an external source.  Thus, Christians are not responsible for their own morality, or to decide for themselves what is right in a particular situation.  Right and wrong are dictated to them, or "revealed", as they call it.  They are simply required to obey.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

They Did It for God

Two weeks after Islamic religious fanatics unleashed their terror on the population of Paris, Americans are afraid that they might be the next target.  They want to prevent Muslims from taking refuge in the United States, for fear that there might be terrorists hidden among them.  In many cases, these Muslims have themselves been displaced from their own homelands by the religious extremists.  America has traditionally welcomed such people, in the spirit so eloquently expressed by Emma Lazarus.
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Friday, November 27, 2015

On the Indeterminacy of the Physical

James Ross has argued that thought must be at least partly non-physical, int his variant of the Argument from Reason, which he outlines in his paper Immaterial Aspects of Thought.  This argument is quite similar to CS Lewis' AFR, since they both claim that human intellect has properties that cannot be accounted for by any purely naturalistic explanation.  Both of these arguments make claims that are epistemically unjustified and inconsistent with a scientific understanding of cognition.  Victor Reppert's defense of the AFR does this too, and I have argued this point with him, and even showed him some reading material that would help him understand the scientific perspective, but he continues to refuse to learn any relevant science. 

The argument made by Ross is that thinking of a certain type has the property of 'determinacy', which no physical process can have.  In my previous post, I addressed the issue that Ross does not clearly define what is meant by the term 'determinacy'.  He seems to use the term in two distinctly different ways.  But if the word is understood in either of those ways, his claims about the determinacy of the intellect and the indeterminacy of physical processes deny the reality that is clearly observable.  I suspect that like Reppert, Ross must have a similar anti-scientific bent.  I will show that his argument is false.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Indeterminacy of Philosophical Thinking

Some time ago, I wrote about the need to use plain language and clearly defined terms in a philosophical argument.  One of the things I noted was: When I hear an argument stated with "weasel-words" or phrasing that is semantically impenetrable, that is a glaring signal to me that I should be on the lookout for an attempt to evade cold, hard deductive reasoning.  Such is the case with a paper that has recently come to my attention by James Ross called Immaterial Aspects of Thought.  This argument hinges on the meaning of the word 'determinate' (or 'indeterminate').  But the word is not at all clearly defined.  Ross summarizes the argument this way:
Some thinking (judgment) is determinate in a way no physical process can be. Consequently, such thinking cannot be (wholly) a physical process.
This has been restated by Feser as a syllogism:
(1) All formal thinking is determinate, but
(2) No physical process is determinate, so
(3) No formal thinking is a physical process.
When I read these statements, the first thing that strikes me is that it isn't immediately obvious what they're saying.  There needs to be a clear and unequivocal definition of the word 'determinate', or this argument won't hold water.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Harm of Same-Sex Marriage

I have often claimed that same-sex marriage does no harm to anyone, and shouldn't be prohibited.  In this video, Jennifer Roback Morse, a Catholic, presents her religious-based views describing the supposed harms of same-sex marriage.

This is yet another case of piety as a cover for bigotry.  There is absolutely no factual, objective information in this presentation.  For the most part, it just appeals to the emotions of fellow bigots.  She makes plenty of assertions about what's right, but doesn't support those assertions with facts and data.  I'll examine her claims and show that it's nothing more than hot air from someone with a religious-based anti-gay agenda.

Monday, November 16, 2015

A Safe Space for Hypocrisy

I was checking out crude's blog and saw this article: A Safe Space for Marriage:
A same-sex marriage doesn't harm you at all. In fact, being forced to provide a wedding cake custom-made for a same-sex wedding, or take photos of the same-sex couple, doesn't harm you at all.

And yet...

Having a speaker show up on your campus, if you find their views objectionable, is a horrific offense which requires 'trigger warnings', protests, and a safe space, because simply encountering their views is enough to Do Real Harm.
I thought to myself for once I agree with him.  But a closer look reveals that crude appears to agree with the notion that same-sex marriage is harmful, but he has problem with political correctness and those who are bothered by "microagressions".  The comments seem to indicate that the problem is with liberals who hold contradictory positions, according to crude, because SSM actually is hurtful, but speaking freely isn't.  So it looks like I am only half in agreement with him.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Politics of Religious Freedom

Recently, three Republican presidential candidates took the stage at a rally is Des Moines called the National Religious Liberties Conference, targeted toward conservative evangelical voters in advance of the Iowa caucuses.  It was organized and hosted by firebrand pastor Kevin Swanson.  One of the major topics of this conference was the recent Supreme Court Ruling for marriage equality.  But listening to Swanson speak, it was obvious that this was a platform for fear mongering and to spew hatred and stir up sentiment against gays.  The web site for this conference asks these questions:

Monday, November 9, 2015

Victor's Argument for Bigotry

I have to hand it to Victor.  He has a littany of justifications for his anti-gay bigotry.  And it all boils down to religious justification.  This is piety as a cover for bigotry, as I have discussed before.  By his logic, all Christians should have the same anti-gay "principles" that he has.  But they don't.  There are many Christians who don't see this kind of bigotry as a principle of their Christian belief.  And I know that Victor objects strongly to using the term 'bigot' to describe people like him.  My use of the term here has a very specific meaning: someone who practices or advocates the practice of discrimination against some group of people, particularly when that discrimination would deny the equal rights of the victims of that discrimination.  Perhaps he's sensitive about this terminology because he thinks it is used in the much same manner that he uses the term 'atheist'.
I'm not going to argue that atheism always leads to totalitarianism, but ... - Reppert
And then he proceeds to argue that atheism leads to totalitarianism.  And what does this have to do with bigotry?  He seems to be making the case on this basis that atheists (who are the bad guys in favor of SSM) are wrong, and Christians (who are the good guys opposed SSM) are right.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Setting the Record Straight on ID

Some religious people like to think of themselves as being smarter and more logical than all those atheists, who are deluded into accepting a metaphysical view (materialism) that makes no sense to them.  How could nature on its own produce the magnificent complexity of God's creatures, with all their functional parts so well made for their respective tasks - the eyes for seeing, the legs for running, fingers for grasping, and so on?  How can DNA be made to encode the precise protein sequences needed to produce these features without the help of a designer?  And how could an atheist be so stupid as to believe what conventional science has to say about it?

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Religious Interference with Scientific Progress

Pope Francis recently announced to his fellows in the Catholic church that Darwinian evolution is consistent with church dogma, and with that, he has dragged the more reluctant members of the institution, kicking and screaming, into the 19th century.  It is the official position of the Catholic church that their religion is entirely compatible with modern science.  That is, except for the parts that aren't compatible.  For example, the church still rejects virtually the entire field of cognitive science, in favor of their theistic theory of immaterial souls and intelligence that derives from the mind of God.  The church maintains that in cases like this, their dogma is correct, and science just hasn't figured out the truth yet.  But there's no incompatibility.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

On the Necessity of God

I read an interesting article by WL Craig regarding the necessity of God's existence.  Interesting, that is, because it makes what seems to be an obvious leap of logic to conclude that God exists necessarily.  Here is what he said:
So is it logically possible that God not exist? Not in the sense of metaphysical possibility! There is no strict logical contradiction in the statement "God does not exist," just as there is not a strict logical contradiction in saying "Jones is a married bachelor," but both are unactualizable states of affairs. Thus, it is metaphysically necessary that God exists.

We have here the germ of the ontological argument for God's existence. For if it is possible that God exists, there is a possible world in which God has necessary existence. But then He exists in every world, including this one. Thus, the atheist is thrust into the awkward position of having to say that God's existence is impossible. It is not enough to say that in fact God does not exist; the atheist must hold that it is impossible that God exists—a much more radical claim!
Let's break this down, shall we?

Monday, October 26, 2015

Pinning Atrocities on Atheism

It seems to be a truism among Christians that the greatest atrocities in history were committed by atheists.  And not only that, but they are a consequence of atheism.  Many, if not most, Christians believe that atheism implies a lack of morality.  Prominent Christians like David Marshall endlessly repeat the assertion that atheism and Soviet-style Communism are essentially equivalent.  Even the crimes of the Nazis are blamed on atheistic beliefs.  These tropes are echoed so often by Christians that most of them are convinced that they're true.  It is interesting to note that they follow the the playbook of the Nazi Propagandists.  As Joseph Goebbels is thought to have said, "If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it, and you will even come to believe it yourself."

Thursday, October 22, 2015

What's the Deal With New Atheists?

Christians these days are sounding the rallying cry against "new atheists".  They are waging a pitched battle against them, turning everything they say into a grossly distorted straw man, and making them out to be dishonest, hateful, immoral, and even dangerous.  Where does all this antipathy come from?

A few years ago, I decided to enter the fray of discussion with religious believers in an attempt to learn more about their beliefs, and to understand why they believe what they do.  I quickly earned the label of "gnu".  It was a term that I had never heard before, and I wondered what distinguishes a "gnu" from other atheists.  I have been asking that question ever since, but I never got any kind of satisfactory answer from the theists.  But after all this time, and many arguments and discussions, the real answer is evident.

Monday, October 19, 2015

How Do Liberty and Equality Arise?

There is no end to the ridiculous claims made by Christian apologists.  We've heard the argument before that Christianity is responsible for the rise of science, despite the fact that when science was starting to emerge from the shadows of religious orthodoxy in the late middle ages, the church did everything in its power to suppress it.  Now Victor Reppert and some of the cultists at his blog are making the claim that the concepts of freedom and equality for mankind are also products of Christianity.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

David Wood, Continued

In a recent post, I spoke about David Wood's phony conversion story, which had appeared in Shadow To Light.  I made a comment over there, which generated some discussion.  It was probably some of the most interesting discussion that has occurred in that blog in quite some time, because most of the people there simply echo the thoughts of the poster.  But in this case, there was someone presenting an opposing point of view for a change.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

AFR Defended (poorly) by Gilson

Tom Gilson has produced a defense of the Argument From Reason that closely mirrors the thinking of Victor Reppert.  It amounts to an argument from ignorance of science.  I will summarize Gilson's points.  First, his argument stated formally:
P1: At the foundational, atomic or molecular level (under physicalism) the physical brain operates without regard to rationality.

P2: At the foundational, atomic or molecular level (under physicalism) the physical brain operates without regard to truth-bearers.

P3: At the macro level, under physicalism, the physical brain operates without connection to truth-bearers, unless some truth-bearing capacity is introduced from a non-physical source.

P4: At the macro level, thought has no connection to truth-bearers, unless some truth-bearing capacity is introduced from a non-physical source.

P5: Thought has no connection to truth (under physicalism).

Saturday, October 10, 2015

A Phony Conversion Story

Shadow To Light has posted a video that purports to be the conversion story of a man, David Wood, who says he grew up as an atheist.  It's a rather bizarre story.  He says that at the age of five years, he was told that his dog died, and his reaction was "So what?"  He became a criminal, and he had no boundaries, no care for other people, no reason he shouldn't steal from them, destroy their property, or even kill them.  Even when his friend was killed, he said "So what?"  And this, he wants us to believe, is because of his atheism.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Stupid Theist Tricks: Epistemological Denialism

Why is it important to have epistemic justification for the things we believe?  Epistemic justification is reason to believe something.  Belief without justification is what we call blind faith.  It is belief without reason or belief beyond reason.  But Christians insist that their faith is based on reason and evidence.  This seems to be very important to them. 

Alvin Plantinga considers epistemic justification to be essential for theistic belief.  But at the same time, he recognizes that there is a lack of objective evidence to serve as justification for it.  That's why he invented his own epistemology that defines an emotional feeling about the existence or presence of God (that he calls the sensus divinitatus) as being a "properly basic" belief, which gives it the epistemological status of serving as justification for religious beliefs.  Plantinga call this "Reformed Epistemology".  It is circular reasoning on steroids, that makes a mockery of the whole branch of philosophy known as epistemology.

Other theists seem to be confused about their own epistemology.  I have yet to hear one of them admit that they lack evidence for their beliefs, but when asked to state what that evidence is, they will use every trick in the book to avoid answering.  A discussion at Victor's blog makes this abundantly clear.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Natural vs. Supernatural

The question seems to arise over and over again.  What is the difference between natural phenomena and supernatural phenomena?  At first blush, it doesn't seem that there should be any controversy about this.  But theists are fond of blurring the line.  Their reasoning seems to go something like this: if there is no clear distinction between natural and supernatural, then there is no clear basis for declaring that belief in the supernatural is unjustified, or that it is somehow less sound than naturalism.  In this way, they seek to make their own belief in supernatural things seem more reasonable.  Here's an example of this line of thinking:
What I meant was this. Suppose the Apostles' Creed is true, but the nature-supernature distinction turns out to be an artificial one, so that there is no sharp distinction between the natural and the supernatural. Suppose all we mean by physical is that it interacts with the physical world. So it turns out what we used to call God, angels, and souls turn out to be physical things, by some definition of physical. We can call them the theon, angelons, and psychons. My reaction to that, is, "So what. No problem." Only when you put limits on what can be natural am I going to be concerned about defending the belief that there is something super-that. - Reppert
Victor is admitting here that he'd rather not have to defend belief in supernatural things, but he thinks it's advantageous to take the battle to the ground of the naturalists and make them seem unreasonable for refusing to admit the existence of things that are part of the natural world.  But his reasoning is flawed, as I shall discuss.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Evidence For Dummies

I have previously discussed evidence in terms of its value in providing epistemological support for belief.  Victor Reppert takes a Bayesian view of evidence:
I understand evidence in Bayesian terms. For me, X is evidence for Y just in case X is more likely to exist given Y than given not-Y. By this definition, something can have evidence for it and be false. - Reppert
That's great.  It almost sounds as if he has justification for his beliefs, but in reality, he's just pulling the wool over the eyes of his readers.  Taking a Bayesian view of evidence is good, but it's only part of the picture, as he admits.  When analyzing evidence, you need to find the hypothesis that best accounts for all the available facts.  This is known as a scientific approach to evaluating evidence.  If there are any facts that tend to disconfirm the hypothesis, they can't be ignored (which is what theists tend to do).  Perhaps a different hypothesis would  work better - one that is arrived at by taking a more objective view of the evidence

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Thomism and the Ultimate End

In a recent post, I discussed the discord between Thomistic metaphysics and a modern scientific understanding of natural reality.  That generated quite a lot of discussion, particularly from Thomists eager to defend their archaic understanding of nature in light of their theistic philosophy.  Thomists, of course, will deny that there is any discord at all.  But this comes at the cost of having to re-interpret their own philosophy to minimize or explain away those conflicts.  For example, they either have to strain to define Aristotle's four causes in a manner consistent with modern physics, or simply accept that those things are nothing more than a philosophical way of understanding causation that is unrelated to and has no bearing on actual physics.  Choosing the latter makes the four causes superfluous and irrelevant outside the context of philosophical discourse.  The former entails that traditional understandings of the their role must be changed to conform with new knowledge gained from science. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Conflating Faith With Faith

Kyle Butt cautions Christians against using the standard dictionary definition of faith.  Christians, understandably, don't want to be seen as believing without sufficient evidence.  They love to tell themselves that their faith requires, and is justified by evidence that is overwhelming and irrefutable.  But the dictionary defines faith as belief without evidence, not because of some ideological motivation to subvert the true nature of faith, but because that is, after all, what we generally mean when we use the word.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

More Logical Trickery

I recently came across this logical "proof" of the existence of God at Robert Oerter's blog, Somewhat Abnormal.
Consider the following sentence:

(S) If this sentence is true, then God exists.

Suppose sentence S is true. Then the first clause is satisfied, so the second clause is true. Thus, God exists.

What the preceding paragraph proves is that if sentence S is true, then God exists. But that is exactly what sentence S asserts. So that means we have proved that sentence S is true! And therefore God really does exist.
When I read it, it struck me as just the kind of thing that Christians would buy (note that Robert Oerter does not buy it).  It is a logical sleight of hand.  It tricks the reader into accepting its conclusion.  And that's the basis of many theistic proofs.  Let's examine exactly why this argument fails.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Misunderstanding Hume

David Hume is well-known as a materialist and empiricist.  It is inconceivable that he would think of physical objects as being products of the mind.  He viewed objects as being composed of their parts.  But if an object composed of parts is seen as an entity in its own right, that is a perception of the mind.
The WHOLE, you say, wants a cause. I answer, that the uniting of these parts into a whole, like the uniting of several distinct counties into one kingdom, or several distinct members into one body, is performed merely by an arbitrary act of mind, and has no influence on the nature of things. Did I show you the particular cause of each individual in a collection of twenty particles of matter, I should think it very unreasonable, should you afterwards ask me, what was the cause of the whole twenty. This is sufficiently explained in explaining the cause of the parts. - Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion
What does this mean?  Hume is saying that the mind has no influence on the things that are assembled into a group, but the mind perceives this assemblage as a whole object.  There need not be any explanation for the object beyond explaining the parts that constitute the whole.  He once famously said, "I am nothing but a bundle of perceptions".

How surprising, then, to see Victor Reppert use this passage as evidence for his supernatural view of mind.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Antony Flew - After the Conversion

In their snarky response to a blog post on Patheos by Bob Seidensticker (10 questions Christians must answer) that poses some issues worthy of consideration for theists, Manuel Alfonseca and Juan Carlos Nieto have posed some questions of their own for atheists in the Popular Science blog.  As I read their ten questions, it immediately became clear to me that these guys didn't take Seidenstricker's issues seriously.  Not only did they fail to answer any of his questions, but their response had an air of snarkiness and petulance that could be described as childish.  Most of their questions ended with something like, "Do you have scientific reasons to believe it, or do you believe it without reason? In other words, is it a dogma for you?".

I won't bother answering all their questions, mainly because I think they are too easily answered.  This is mostly due to the fact that these theists (like many theists) don't really understand what materialism entails or what materialists believe.  Instead, I would like to focus on one question in particular that they pose:
One of the most important atheist philosophers of the twentieth century (Antony Flew, 1923-2010) changed his mind in 2004 and published a book [5] explaining the reasons for his decision. Have you read Flew’s book, or  will you take care not to read it, so that your atheistic convictions won’t be in danger?
In answer to that, I will say that I hadn't previously read Flew's book, There is a God - How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind, but I obtained a copy and read it.  It's a short book.  No, I wasn't afraid that it would endanger my "atheistic convictions".  I was genuinely interested in understanding Flew's reasons for coming to believe in God.  I was especially interested to know if there was some particular idea that he had or some new information that he came across that he found to be convincing.  Perhaps I too, would see why he found it so convincing.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Mourning the Death of America

I just arrived back home after traveling through the deep south for the past two weeks.  My posts have been sporadic during that time, but I hope to settle back into a more normal schedule in the next few days.

I wanted to comment on my observations on driving through rural countryside of Alabama and Mississippi.  The thing that struck me the most was the prevalence of religious symbols, everywhere you go, everywhere you look.  There were lots of churches, of course.  I think there were more churches than houses.  I saw at least a dozen of them along a single mile of road.  There were signs saying "Jesus loves you".  There were billboards, many of them advertising a church, but more often simply making a statement about the glory of God or the wages of sin.  Some asked me where I want to spend eternity, and some even provided me with a stark multiple-choice answer.  But never did they mention a possibility that some other reality might be true.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Establishment of Religion, Again

Kim Davis, the elected county clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, refuses to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, in defiance of court orders going all the way up to the US Supreme Court.  She has been jailed for contempt of court.

In her absence, several gay couples have received marriage licenses issued by her deputies, which Davis claims are null and void because they don't bear her signature.  When offered a chance to be released from confinement on the condition that she not interfere with the issuance of licenses, she refused.

Kim Davis calls herself a born-again Christian, and believes that marriage should be between one man and one woman.  She is currently in her fourth marriage.  If Davis' reasoning is correct, perhaps the clerk who issued her fourth marriage license should have refused, on the same grounds used by Davis.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Confusion Over Compatibilism and Determinism

In a recent post, I discussed the logical incoherency of libertarian free will.  Some of the commentary that followed included discussion of scientific findings that provide strong evidence for the deterministic nature of human decision-making.  Papalinton cited some articles that discuss neurological evidence of the illusory nature of libertarian free will.  Keith Rozumalski dismisses the neurological evidence and counters that many materialists are compatibilists, apparently without realizing that the neurological evidence for determinism is entirely consistent with compatibilism, which is, after all, a form of determinism.  Compatibilism is the philosophical position that despite the deterministic nature of our decision-making processes, we are still responsible for our own choices, as long as those choices are not coerced.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

How to Respond to Theists' Three Easy Questions

Shadow To Light believes there is a simple way to defeat atheism by posing three simple questions that will send them packing with their tails between their legs.  His confidence is based on the idea that the atheist unreasonably demands evidence for what he believes, but has poor understanding of what constitutes evidence.
First of all, Greene is working with a shallow, superficial understanding of evidence. He seems to think that if certain data were indeed evidence for X, then these data would be universally perceived and acknowledged as evidence for X. But that is not how evidence works. Evidence is not objective reality that is detected by the senses; evidence is perceived by the mind. The mind converts data from objective reality into the subjective perception of evidence. Because the perception of evidence depends on interpretation from the mind, evidence itself is something that has a distinct subjective element to it. In fact, it would not be too far from the truth to note that evidence is in the eye of the beholder.
He has a point.  Skeptics should admit that there is plenty of evidence that theists use to support their belief.  But he's absolutely wrong that subjective evidence merits the same epistemological status as objective evidence.  Theists can point to plenty of poor evidence that only serves to reinforce their own belief, but when it comes to the kind of evidence that actually provides epistemological justification for belief, they have nothing.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Big Problem With Thomism

Edward Feser, perhaps the greatest proponent of Thomistic philosophy today, dismisses modern science-based cosmological theories, such as those of  Lawrence Krauss, as being ignorant of the one true philosophical tradition:
The reason God is necessary and the material universe is not is that he is pure actuality while the material universe is composed of potentiality and actuality, and thus in need of something to actualize it; that he is absolutely simple while the material universe is composite, and thus in need of something to compose it; and that his essence just is subsistent existence itself whereas material things (and indeed anything other than God) have an essence distinct from their acts of existence, and thus stand in need of something to cause them.  No doubt some atheists will be inclined simply to scoff at the metaphysical ideas underlying such arguments.  But to scoff at an argument is not to produce a rational criticism of it.  And since the arguments in question are the chief arguments in the Western tradition of philosophical theology, to fail to produce a rational criticism would simply be to fail to show that atheism really is rationally superior to that tradition. - Feser
Feser is, of course, entitled to his opinion.  But he seems to be unaware of any alternative metaphysical view that would be consistent with a modern scientific understanding, or he simply rejects such views out of hand because they don't support his theistic beliefs.

I believe that Thomistic philosophy is riddled with logical inconsistencies, and is based on assumptions that are epistemologically unjustified.  Perhaps I will devote a future article to some of those problems.  But what I would like to focus on in this article are the metaphysical foundations of Thomism.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

On Free Will and God's Will

What is the problem with positing both that there is human free will and that God directs or guides the course of events to achieve a desired outcome?  Theists argue for both.  But their argument is incoherent, as I hope to show here.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

On the Fundamental Divide

Victor Reppert wonders what Richard Dawkins would have done had he attended Oxford at the time when CS Lewis was president of the Oxford Socratic Club.
What is likely going to be the result of the polarization of the question of religion is that even with the enhanced communication provided by the Internet, we are still moving toward a culture in which we communicate seriously only with like-minded people. When C. S. Lewis became the first President of the Oxford Socratic Club he talked about the value of such a debating society for the community of Oxford University. I have often wondered what a certain well-known Oxford atheist would have done had the Oxford Socratic Club were still in existence, and he were to receive an invitation to present a paper and engage in dialogue with the resident Christians (such as C. S. Lewis).

Since I'm a theist and a Christian, I like to see people become theists and Christians. But I also like to make sure there is an open community of discussion concerning these issues, something I value independently of it as an instrument for getting people to agree with me. - Reppert
Here's one possible answer: Dawkins would have happily engaged in civilized dialog and debate with those Christians.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

On the Attributes of God

In discussing the existence of God with a Christian, I often encounter arguments that are offered without logical justification, let alone evidence.  This can be a frustrating experience for someone who wants to refute the logic of the theistic arguments.  You can't refute logic where there is none, or where the underlying logical basis for the theist's argument is hidden under layers of dogmatic belief.  You end up arguing against the dogma, and no matter what you say, no matter how thoroughly you think you have refuted it, the same dogma keeps coming back from the theist, because dogma is not logical.  It is dictated by the religious institution, and the faithful theist is required to believe it, no matter what.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Saying Something Doesn't Make It True

Having written several articles about the religious nature of Intelligent Design, it is pointless to keep saying the same things again and again.  If someone refuses to listen or to understand what has been explained in court rulings, and by the scientific community, and by secularists, and by me, then saying it yet again won't help to enlighten the hopelessly obstinate religious believer.  Trying to explain the difference between faith and science doesn't work at all, because the religious are incapable of separating fantasy from reality.  They can't distinguish between objective evidence and wishful thinking.

Victor continues to insist that it is unfair that teaching his creationist bullshit is regarded as unconstitutional.  This time, he puts a new twist on it:  If teaching ID is unconstitutional, then science should be as well.

Monday, August 3, 2015

You Can't Prove It

Sometimes I marvel at the clever and creative ways theists come up with arguments to prove their cases in support of theistic beliefs or against naturalist beliefs.  They always find ways to disguise logical fallacies in such a way that they are easy to overlook, and so present an argument that appears valid.

Take, for example, the point that Victor has been trying to make about evidentialism.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Scientific Proof - A Red Herring

In my previous post, I showed that there are people (especially creationists) who are distrustful and skeptical of the motives and methods of science because a scientific investigation of their own beliefs would cast those beliefs into serious doubt, if not destroy them altogether.  These people will do everything in their power to discredit science and anyone who thinks that its epistemological foundations (ie empiricism) are the best way to gain knowledge.  So they create a straw man view of the empiricist's epistemology that they call "scientism", and create straw man views of science itself, as Ilíon has done by making claims that science purports to have the same level of authority as religion in revealing "Truth".

And Victor Reppert, himself a defender of creationism and and ID pseudo-science, is playing the same game.  He would have us think that evidence as a justification for belief is logically absurd.
It's the regress problem. Here is a discussion by Maverick Christian.

Suppose we define evidentialism as follows:

A belief B is justified just in case there is a justified proposition C, which constitutes sufficient evidence for B.

I used to call this "the prove-it game." You need proof for everything you believe, and then proof of the proof, and then proof of the proof of the proof, and then proof of the proof of the proof of the proof, and then proof of the proof of the proof of the proof of the proof, until you finally get tired and give up. - Reppert

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

On Scientific Truth

There is a certain cultist named Ilíon at Victor's blog who continually criticizes the validity of science while presenting himself as the quintessential purveyor of logical truth.  He is completely closed to the notion that he could ever be wrong.
What Gentle Reader will notice is that in no case does B.Pushin'Scientism even attempt to show (nor ever will) that any of my statemets are false, or even badly reasoned.

Furthermore, if he were pushed on the items -- and prevented from running away -- he would acknowledge that every one of them is true.

But, somehow ... because scientism ... true AND true AND true IMPLIES false. To put it another way, I have shined a light on one of his idols, and thus, even though every specific thing I said is true, the concatenation of those individually true statements must (somehow) be false.

Just to be clear: this is *not* how rational persons "reason". - Ilíon

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Doing Science a Service

Victor stubbornly persists in his position that there is something legitimate about teaching children to ignore the vast body of evidence and instead look for a teleological explanation for how species came into existence.  In the ongoing discussion at his blog, in answer to the claim that ID is a means of teaching religion, but disguised as science, one of Victor's biggest cultists made the counter-charge that teaching evolution is just a means of teaching atheism.  (There's that projection thing again.)  DougJC replied:
And I am just as concerned that teaching evolution as a recruiting tool for atheism would downplay legitimate data, downplay certain areas of uncertainty and basically present an incomplete and misleading picture. Educators (along with scientists) should be expected to be superbly trained at leaving personal philosophies at the door of the classroom. - DougJC
I agree completely with this comment, but I don't think it answers the charge that was made.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

What is Creationism Anyway?

Victor Reppert is an advocate of the Intelligent Design movement.  But he is frustrated that the courts have found that teaching it as science in public education is unconstitutional.  My question for Victor is: Why can't you be satisfied teaching your religious beliefs in Sunday school?  As I noted in my previous post, you should be happy that you are free to do that.  Why do you think you need to impose it on the rest of us?

But the IDists insist that what they are pushing is indeed science.  They took the creationism out of it, so where's the beef?
OK, so the court says "You can't teach out and out creationism, but you can do this," so someone alters a creationist text in order to do just this, and then Kitzmiller says that it's wrong to do "just this".

This I don't understand. " - Reppert
So what is Creationism?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Christian Persecution Complex

American Christians have never had it so good.  Living in a country where the government neither prevents them from practicing the religion of their choice nor dictates what or how to believe is a blessing that results from having a secular government.  How unappreciative they are of that blessing when they seek to impose their religious beliefs on the rest of us by force of government.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Reppert on Dawkins: A Swing and a Miss

Victor Reppert recently posted this swipe at Richard Dawkins:
From a sermon by Rev. Drachir Snikwad, of Hellfire Baptist Church in Georgia:

I think we should probably abandon the irremediably gay precisely because that is what they are – irremediable. I am more interested in the fence-sitters who haven't really considered the question very long or very carefully. And I think that they are likely to be swayed by a display of naked contempt. Nobody likes to be laughed at. Nobody wants to be the butt of contempt.

If it doesn't make them straight, it should at least keep them in the closet.
The quote attributed to Drachir Snikwad (Richard Dawkins spelled backwards, except he didn't quite get it right) is a take on an actual comment made by Dawkins, with 'gay' substituted for 'religious'.  Epic fail, Victor.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Stupid Theist Tricks:  Science Denialism

A discussion at Victor's blog goes to show how much Christian ideologues are willing downplay the validity of science in order to make their theism seem more reasonable by comparison.  Two cases in point appeared in a single thread recently.  In one of these, Ilíon makes the claim that scientific methods of measurement are not trustworthy.  In the other case, crude makes an argument that even well-established scientific theories are cast into doubt because they are subject to be refuted by science at some time in the future.  Both of these claims have some truth to them, to be sure.  But both of them are grossly overstated.  Let's see why.

Friday, July 10, 2015

What's in Your Toolbox?

On numerous occasions, I have heard Bob Prokop boast about the diversity of his epistemological "toolbox" over at Victor Reppert's blog.  Bob believes that empiricism (which he thinks is the only source of knowledge available to those who are guilty of "scientism" - see my discussion of scientism) is much too limited in scope, and that to get a full picture of "the Truth", one needs to have a full complement of epistemological tools.  He says:
Naturally, no observation of phenomena within the natural universe can ever contradict correct theology. (Just as there is quack science, there is (unfortunately) quack theology. Stick with the Catholic Church, and you can't go wrong!) But that is not the only source of theological truth. Yes, we are assured by St. Paul that an honest study of the natural world will assuredly lead us to an understanding of the true nature of God. But there are other, equally valid means of arriving at such knowledge, such as revelation. Just as the good carpenter needs to make use of every tool in his toolbox, and to only use the appropriate tool for the task at hand, the serious seeker after truth requires a full toolbox, filled with empirical observation, history, literature, art, music, liturgy, revelation, personal encounters, life experience, prayer, and a Sense of Wonder to have the faintest hope of actually learning anything worthwhile. To restrict one's self to the hammer of empiricism while so much of the world is composed of screws is to guarantee failure.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

What would Dawkins say to Lewis?

Peter S Williams has written a book (C S Lewis vs the New Atheists) in which he attempts to counter the "New Atheist" movement by using arguments of CS Lewis.  In this video, he promotes the book, discussing some of the contents of the book.  He essentially places himself in the position of presenting arguments from both sides, in this case with Richard Dawkins representing the "New Atheists".  This is an interesting way of assuming the air of objectivity while presenting arguments from both sides, but the reality is that Williams is presenting his own understanding of these arguments.  It may be the case that he has a good understanding of Lewis, but it is definitely not the case that he understands or fairly represents the opposing perspective.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Let Freedom Ring

This 4th of July, Christians are moaning and groaning.  "Our freedom is lost", they cry.  "The constitution has been trampled upon."  As they predict the end of the United States as we know it, and liken the current situation to the fall of Rome, they bellow out the most ominous of warnings:  "Those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it."  How dire their predictions are.  How dismal the future they foresee.

Get a grip, guys.  There is a class of people who now have the right to get married in all states, and the federal government will give full recognition to those marriages.  That's it.  I defy any of you to tell me what right has been taken away from you.  What freedom have you lost, aside from telling these people that they're not allowed to marry?  Please tell me.  I'd really like to know what all this infantile whining is about.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

On Liberalism and the Fall of the Empire

As conservatives continue to lament the court decision on same-sex marriage, we hear ever more desperate cries of doom and gloom.  And none are crying louder than Catholic officials who are trying to paint the crumbling of their church as the destruction of America itself.  This article by Fr. Dwight Longnecker was cited by Catholic commenter planks length in my previous post on this topic.

Longnecker plaintively moans:
Hello  America! One of the most severe warnings that has come out to last week’s Supreme Court ruling was that from Justices Roberts and Scalia who observed that the will of the American people had been usurped by a handful of non elected lawyers.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Can Someone Please Explain?

Now that the right to marry is shared equally by all under the constitution, conservatives and religious zealots are tying themselves into knots, furious that such a horrific thing should ever come to pass.

"We're heading down the slippery slope", they say.  "Polygamy will be next.  And then marriages based on incest and bestiality."  This is the end of traditional marriage.  What would the God of Abraham say about the abomination of polygamy?  Well, perhaps they shouldn't use that one as an argument for "traditional" marriage.  It seems that Christians abandoned the traditional Jewish practice of polygamy, and adopted monogamy from Roman culture (you know, the evil empire they so despised).  But they didn't abandon the tradition of slavery until more recent times.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Presidential Material - The Donald Gets Tough

Donald Trump is a tough guy, and he wants you to know it.

Trump is famous for using the phrase "You're fired!" on his television show The Apprentice.  He even tied to trademark that phrase, which created business problems for people like Susan Brenner.  But that's the nature of the business world.  The sharks gobble up the little fish.  The tough guys win.  Ultimately, the  U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected his attempt.  Oh, well.  I guess he thought that would work better than his attempt to remove a little old lady from her house in Atlantic City so he could build a limo parking facility at his casino, the Taj Mahal (which eventually failed).  That attempt didn't work, either.  The little old lady won.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Maybe There Is a God

The Supreme Court has ruled that marriage equality is the rule of the land in all fifty states.  This ruling was not a big surprise, because most constitutional scholars have predicted this outcome for some time.  But theists across the country are suffering from great distress because they no longer get to impose their ridiculous beliefs about who is allowed to marry upon the rest of us.  Mike Huckabee says this is "an out-of-control act of unconstitutional, judicial tyranny".

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Reppert Misses the Boat (Again)

When I first encountered CS Lewis' Argument from Reason, I told Victor Reppert that the assertion that rational thought can't arise from non-rational matter is unjustified.  His rationale for making this claim is that there are no mental elements (or "psychons") at the fundamental level of physical reality, and therefore there can be no physical structure that comprises a rational mind.  This argument is purely a priori.  It relies on a theistic presumption about mind, with no empirical data, and in fact no scientific knowledge of cognition whatsoever.  It is armchair philosophy at its worst - completely divorced from any empirical knowledge.  I pointed out some literature that might help him gain a better understanding of what is within the grasp of scientific inquiry, but of course he refuses to read it.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Craig on Scientism

I have sometimes been told that I am guilty of scientism.  If that's the case, then I suppose it would be worthwhile for me to find out exactly what it is that I'm guilty of.  The term 'scientism', when used by Christians (or more generally, people who adhere to a rationalist epistemology, as opposed to empiricism) is a pejorative that refers to someone (usually an atheist) who is blind to all avenues of human inquiry except for science.  It seems to imply a lack of morality, a failure to appreciate the arts, and even an inability to recognize the truth of logic.  In short, it describes someone who is devoid of humanity.

WL Craig expresses two main problems that he sees with scientism:

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Subjective Morality of CS Lewis

In The Poison of Subjectivism, CS Lewis blames subjectivism for the evils of totalitarian states.  "Until modern times, no thinker of the first rank ever doubted that our judgments of value were rational judgments, or that what they discovered was objective."  That may be true, but it ignores the fact that those thinkers did not always share the same values and moral judgments.  So Lewis, ironically, states his opinion that value judgments are objective, despite the fact that there is no universal agreement as to what these supposed objective values are.  He calls the idea that men can create value by rational means a "fatal superstition", even as he bases his own values on his religious superstition.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Stupid Theist Tricks: Projection

Of all the debate tactics that theists employ, none is more frustrating and infuriating to me than their habit of trying to make others appear guilty of the very things for which they themselves bear the greatest culpability.  This is similar to a tactic used to great effect by Karl Rove in running George W. Bush's presidential campaign or 2004, now known as "swiftboating".

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Skeptical of Science: "Appendix Doesn't Seem to Serve a Function"

This is a continuation of my commentary on cl's "TheWarfareIsMental" blog.  As I noted in my earlier post, despite his claim that he is respectful of science, cl seems to be distinctly skeptical of various aspects of modern science, as evidenced by the way he takes issue with the distinction between real science and pseudoscience.  As I read more of his posts in the "Science" section of his blog, I came to realize that his skepticism is due to the creationist beliefs that he holds.  If science is right about evolution theory, then that would present a major challenge to his religious and creationist beliefs, and that's the fundamental reason he finds true science difficult to accept.

In today's discussion, I'll focus on another post that is labeled as "False Argument #3", where cl castigates the authors of a high school biology textbook for including the statement, “The appendix is a vestigial organ that does not seem to serve a function in digestion today.”  That word vestigial seems to have hit a nerve for one who believes in creationism.  In support of his own ideology, he needs to tear it down, and he attempts to do so without understanding the issue.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Stupid Theist Tricks:  Piety as a Cover for Bigotry

We've talked about this before (here and here).  But there is no end to the bigotry of some Christians (particularly against gays), and no end to the creative ways they try to rationalize their bigotry and make it sound as if they are the ones who have been wronged when the rest of the world pushes back against their hateful discriminatory practices.  Let's examine some of the seriously flawed logic they employ.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Stupid Theist Tricks:  Claiming Ownership of Morality

How many times have we heard theists claim that atheists can't say what is good or bad because they deny the existence of objective morality?  How many times have we heard them claim that atheists have no morality at all, or that there can be no morality without God?  Anyone who makes such claims does not understand human nature.  They deny that human behavior is truly human, and attribute it instead to God.  They think that if God didn't give us morality, we would all be savage beasts, unable to distinguish right from wrong.  Many think that atheism necessarily entails moral nihilism.  They are wrong.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Skeptical of Science: "What Exactly is Pseudoscience Anyways?"

In a recent comment, I was referred to a blog called "TheWarfareIsMental", owned by blogger cl.  This blog was cited as being a good example of rational discussion and logical argument.  I had been to that blog once before, but only to read and reply to one particular post. 

So I took a look at it, and observed that it is well designed, and covers a variety of topics.  In his statement about himself, cl says, "Unlike many Christians, I am enthusiastic about and respectful of science."  His blog includes a number of posts on scientific topics, and as I looked at a few of them at random, I noted first that there is a distinct skepticism of science in general, and second that he doesn't seem to know much about science as he would have us believe.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Stupid Theist Tricks: Perversion of Evidence

This is part of a series called "Stupid Theist Tricks" that focuses on the various ways theists use lapses of logic and similar sleights of hand to support their belief in God.

Today's topic is "evidence", and how theists misuse the term, both to claim support for their superstitions and to deny its value to atheists.  The first thing we need to do is establish a working definition of the term.  A dictionary definition is:  "the available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid."  One salient point of this definition is that it is based on facts.  Facts are not subjective feelings.  If someone sees a painting and declares, "That is a beautiful picture", it is not a fact that the picture is beautiful.  It is one person's (and perhaps more) feeling that the picture is beautiful, but it may be seen as ugly by others.  In order to be regarded as factual, a proposition has to be objectively true.  And that is the basis of evidence.  If it's not objectively true, then it's not what I call evidence.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Stupid Theist Tricks: Denial of Physical Reality

This is the first of a series called "Stupid Theist Tricks" that will focus on the various ways theists use false logic and similar sleights of hand to support their belief in God.

Today's topic is the denial of what we observe in nature.  Specifically, what we observe is that nervous systems in biological creatures produce various levels of cognitive function, and the most complex nervous systems can produce cognitive function on the level that we would regard as "mind" capable of rational thought.  Theists beg to differ.  They insist that mind can only result from some non-material source.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Where's the Evidence?

I wrote about the irrational nature of conversions to Christianity.  So far, nobody has answered my challenge to show me a conversion story that was based more on rational deliberation than emotion.  I remain convinced that genuine rational deliberation can't possibly result in conversion to Christianity.  After all, there's so much about it that doesn't make sense to a rational person.  But that doesn't stop Christians from making claims about the rational nature of their belief.  They say they've examined the evidence.  They say they've weighed all the facts with an objective mind, and therefore, we can be sure that their belief rests on solid intellectual foundations.  But exactly what is this solid evidence they find so convincing?  Here are a few examples.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Objectivist Utopia, Part 2

This is continued from Part 1, posted earlier.

In Atlas Shrugged, the great industrialists, fed up with progressives, government, regulations, and taxes, decide to leave the world behind and retreat to a place of hiding, where they establish a new Atlantis.

The founder of this community was John Galt, a highly talented engineer who had invented a revolutionary motor that draws power from the air.  When the company he worked for succumbed to the policies of the progressives, he declared that he would stop them by going on strike.  He began a campaign to recruit others who were similarly disillusioned.  One of those recruits, a banker named Midas Mulligan, owned property in a secluded mountain valley in Colorado.  Upon leaving his bank, he converted his assets to gold, and moved to his property, along with food, seed, and livestock, where he built a home and lived permanently.  Mulligan paid Galt to conceal the valley from view and obscure roads leading to it.  Eventually, Galt and other strikers moved to the valley, leasing property from Mulligan, upon which they built comfortable homes.  The community was known as Galt's Gulch.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

On Ridicule, Bullying, and Whining Hypocrisy

Reppert says:
You can debate and discuss, or you can use other means. But debate and discussion involve following certain rules, in particular, the principle of charity. So some people can debate and discuss, and some people can ridicule, but they don't mix, if not in theory at least in practice, because argument requires the principle of charity and ridicule precludes it.
Pardon me, but since when has charity been practiced on his blog?  He moans and groans incessantly about Dawkins for saying atheists should "sharpen our barbs", yet he and his cultists are blind to the fact that their fellow theists have had their fangs bared for centuries.  Since the days of Constantine, they have wasted no opportunity to bully and ridicule non-believers, not to mention imprison, torture, murder, and any other kind of punishment they can come up with.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Objectivist Utopia, Part 1

I was in a discussion with a self-described objectivist who regards Ayn Rand's philosophy as the model for creating an ideal society.  I objected that she preaches selfishness and greed, and that leads to undesirable consequences.  He insisted that I don't understand Rand's philosophy, and questioned whether I had even read her books.  I had to admit that I hadn't read them, but I have read plenty about them and about Rand's way of thinking.  He replied that Rand is misunderstood, and if I haven't read her works myself, then I have a distorted view of her objectivism.  That's a fair criticism.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

An Irrational View of Naturalism

Reppert says:
My concept of what is required for naturalism is as follows:

1. The base level, whether we call it natural, material, or physical, is causally closed.
2. Everything above that level supervenes on the physical/material/natural.
3. Physics is mechanistic. The base level lacks intentionality, purpose, normativity, and subjectivity.
In Victor's view either naturalism doesn't explain everything that exists, or naturalism must be extended to include more than the physical.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Victor's Lame Excuse

It is amusing to see that the cult of Victor continues to behave the same way they always have, even in the absence of the "gnus" that he was so certain were the source of the problem.  How can this be?  Well, obviously it's our fault.
Look, it was like pulling teeth to get me to do the banning I did. But the problem is that the kind of atheism that theists on this site were most likely to deal with once I posted something was the hard-core New Atheist variety. The best atheist responses to most issues come from what I would call the sensible atheist viewpoint, and Jeff Lowder is perhaps one of the best exemplars of that viewpoint. Theists on this site get so used to responding to gnus that they are more likely to respond to non-gnus in the same way as they do with gnus, and I really think some of the theists here would behave better if they weren't so used to responding to gnus.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

In Response to the Ban

Victor has shed some new light on his decision to ban certain atheists from his blog (those certain atheists being, presumably, Papalinton, and yours truly).

Here is his original statement:
I am going to have to ask two people, whose names I don't think I need to mention, to stop posting here. I do this with great reluctance. The reasons are two. One, I think your positions are better represented by other people who agree with you for the most part. Second, your contributions always make discussion more inflammatory than they need to be, and you don't bring out the best in the rest of us.

I love the idea of a "free speech zone" but you end up dominating the conversation here. And even when I want to address a position like yours, I think other representatives of your views better represent them.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Irrational Conversions

I have read many conversion stories, both Cristian-to-atheist and atheist-to-Christian.  Graham Oppy describes his conversion and reasons for non-belief here.
I think that there are no good arguments--no arguments that ought to persuade nonbelievers to change their minds--for Christian belief as I have just characterized it. Indeed, I suspect that many Christians actually agree with me on this point, insofar as they claim that much of what is involved in Christian belief (as I understand it) is only known on the basis of something like personal revelation. Moreover--though I admit that this is more contentious--I think that there are no good arguments for much weaker claims entailed by what I take to characterize Christian belief, e.g., the claim that there is an immaterial, omnipotent, omniscient, wholly good creator (ex nihilo) and sustainer of all things. Since I have argued at length for this claim elsewhere (see, in particular, Oppy [2006]), I shall not try to repeat those arguments here. I do not think that there is any short route to this conclusion; one simply has to work one's way carefully through all of the extant arguments.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Lying to Show Moral Superiority

Today we saw two good examples of Christian morals.  Both were intended to prove how much better are Christian ethics than atheist ethics.  Both were lies.

Let's start with Victor Reppert, a PhD philosopher and Christian.  He has been trying hard recently to make atheists out to be communists, complete with the guilt and moral responsibility for communist atrocities.  Well, actually he has been making these clams for years.  Despite many efforts to explain that people do those things because of their ideologies, and atheism is not an ideology in itself, he continues to say the same stupid things.  He knows it's not the truth, but apparently, one of his goals is to show that Christianity is better than atheism from the perspective of morality.  I discussed this in my previous post.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

It's the Ideology, Stupid

Victor's at it again.  Yet another post blaming communist atrocities on atheism.  No matter how many times we talk about it and explain that all humans share the same basic moral instincts, that ideologies rather than lack of belief are what give us motivation to fight and harm others, we can't say anything that will penetrate the religion-hardened skull of the atheist-haters.  But as long as he insists on blaming atheism for the crimes of communists, I will insist on calling out his lack of reason.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Baltimore Police Decry "Rush to Judgment"

Today, six police officers from Baltimore were charged with crimes including murder, as a result of findings by the medical examiner that ruled Freddie Gray's death was a homicide.  Gray had been arrested on charges of carrying an illegal switchblade knife.  But it turns out that Gray was carrying a legal-sized pocket knife, according to the prosecutor, and the knife was closed and inside his pocket.  Gray had actually broken no law.  But that didn't stop the police from arresting him and then subjecting him to a so-called "rough ride" that caused severe damage to his spine, and ultimately, his death.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

More Obstinate Buffoonery - Denial of Fideism

I noted earlier how obstinate religious people can be in sticking to their beliefs despite any logic or evidence you may present to them that would refute those beliefs.  This is the true nature of their faith, no matter how much they may protest that faith is based on reason.  They don't acknowledge the doctrine of fideism, but they live it to the hilt.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Obstinacy of Religious Thinking

I have spent the past few years on a personal quest to expand my knowledge about things outside the areas of my professional expertise.  In particular, I have been very interested in learning whether there may be some justification for religious belief that I was unaware of that might be worthy of consideration.  This could potentially cause me to change my mind about what I believe, and there certainly are many religious believers that are convinced.  Surely at least some of them should have pretty good reason to believe what they do.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Religious Bigotry Revisited

The discussions about religious-based bigotry against gays never end.  I recently posted about religious bigotry against gay people.

In the latest round at Victor Reppert's blog, he thinks it's wrong that Vanderbilt University should disallow discrimination based on religious "creed" in its school-sponsored clubs and organizations.  In this case, a non-denominational Christian organization called InterVarsity had ousted one of its leaders who was homosexual on the basis that he didn't adhere to the "basic Christian doctrines".  There was no explicit mention of homosexuality, but because of that homosexuality, it was presumed that the person didn't meet the ideological requirements of the group.  The university rightly recognizes this as unjust discrimination.  I call them bigots.  Victor thinks I would do the same in a similar situation (for example, if the Campus Freethought Alliance were infiltrated by the Campus Crusade for Christ), and therefore, I am being intellectually dishonest.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Myth of the Myth of Separation Between Church and State

It has been fashionable among Christians lately to promote the idea that Jefferson's concept of separation between church and state is really just a myth - that the constitutional prohibition exists only to keep government from interfering with the church, but not to keep churches from being involved in the affairs of government.

That view is espoused in this paper from Tim Greenwood of Tim Greenwood Ministries, from which I have taken a few quotations:

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Public Accommodation vs. Religious Freedom

As a response to the federal court's overturning a ban on gay marriages in Indiana, lobbyists (particularly from the American Family Association) began working with the state legislature to advance a law that would allow businesses to openly discriminate against gays.  Since the bill was signed into law, Governor Mike Pence has been fending off questions about the effect of the new law, but the lobbyists who pushed for it have not been completely silent.  They understand that any attempt to clarify the law would in effect destroy its real intent.  The law treats public accommodation businesses as if they were humans with religious beliefs, and explicitly allows them to refuse services to anyone who is not a member of any protected class, on the pretense that rendering these services would be a violation of the religious beliefs of the business.  Of course, Indiana does not define the LGBT community as a protected class for discrimination purposes.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Joke that is Called "Conservapedia"

Victor Reppert posted an article from Conservapedia that purports to highlight the hypocrisy of atheists.  This reminded me of how patently ridiculous Conservapedia is.  It's not that I think there is no hypocrisy among atheists.  But the articles there are so blatantly biased that it's difficult to see how anybody could take it seriously for any purpose at all.  In particular, I find it stunning that Victor Reppert, a philosopher with a PhD, would even consider making this the topic of a post on his blog "to generate some discussion".

To be fair, Victor says that he does not agree with all of what they say.  Which raises the question:  How much of this crap does he agree with?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Reppert's "A Portrait of the North Carolina Killer"

This is my response to Victor Reppert's post linking the Craig Hicks murders with a supposed hateful atheist ideology.  He says:
Just put "a new dark age" in for "hell" and you can see why someone might use force on behalf of atheism.  The more atheists insist that they are immune from the kind of temptation that leads to religious violence, the more concern I have. If you really think atheism leaves you with "nothing to kill or die for," then all I can give you is the Strait answer.