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.