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.