Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Where Does Logic Come From?

It is one of the axioms of theistic thinking that logic, or more specifically, the rules and axioms of logic, come from God.  This is the underlying assumption in certain theistic arguments, and it was the basis of the Lord of Non-Contradiction theistic argument that I discussed in a recent post.  In fact, the notion that rational thought can only be the product of a divine thinker who somehow endows the human soul with his rational faculty is pervasive in theistic philosophy.  But this idea has no justification.  It is merely a presumption that theists make.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

It's The Evidence, Stupid

Oh, brother.  Victor Reppert has done it again.  Yet another post that seems to expose a profound ignorance of the epistemological basis for rejecting belief in God.  This man is a PhD philosopher, for Christ's sake, and he apparently has no clue why a reasonable person should not be a believer.  Instead, he echoes the mindless religionism of Dr. Andy Bannister, who makes this ridiculous straw man:
You think that my denial of Sweden is an actual claim of some kind, that it's a belief. But it isn't. It's a non-belief. There's nothing I need to explain–rather, I'm talking about something I lack, namely a belief in Sweden, so I don't need to give any evidence for it.

I don't have to provide evidence for my non-belief in Atlantis, El Dorado, Shangri-La, or the Customer Support Department at American Airlines, and nor need I for my non-belief in Sweden. I'm not making a claim of any kind–in fact, just the opposite: I'm claiming nothing. I'm merely rejecting one your  beliefs, your belief in Sweden.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Butchering of Jean-Paul Sartre

I was browsing the articles at Christian Cadre, and saw the latest from Joe Hinman, which purports to answer the objection that atheists sometimes raise to the Teleological Argument for God: if the complexity of the universe requires an intelligent and purposeful creator, then why shouldn't God?  And who is that creator?  His answer is the usual theistic pablum: God is love, and that explains everything.  Well, it really doesn't, but this is the kind of meaningless starry-eyed theistic drivel we have come to expect from people like Hinman.  I was about to move on to other articles that might prove to be more worthy of my time, but then I came to the end of Hinman's piece, where he wraps up by quoting from the SEP on Jean-Paul Sartre to drive his point home.  Hinman was using Sartre's ontological duality of in-itself/for-itself as an example of the difference between things that exist apart from God, and God's loving and purposeful act of creation.  What?  That can't be what Sartre meant, can it?

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Why Philosophy of Religion Should End

Victor Reppert recently pointed out an argument for the existence of God that strikes me as nothing more than insipid.  It appears to be a variant of the Argument From Reason, which Victor himself has championed, and made the centerpiece of his career.  This variant is described as an Argument From the Laws of Logic, and it uses essentially the same fundamental reasoning the AFR uses.  It was published by James Anderson and Greg Welty with the title The Lord of Non-Contradiction: An Argument for God from Logic.  And like the AFR, it is based on unsubstantiated assumptions.  It may serve to rationalize a priori beliefs of the faithful, but from the perspective of a non-believer, it is utterly worthless as a rational argument.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Dawkins' Argument from Simplicity???

I was amazed to see this stunning post by Victor Reppert:
What Dawkins argues is that a real explanation explains that which is more complex in terms of that which is simpler. Explanations of anything in terms of God necessarily explains things in terms of that which is still more complex, and so such explanations are nonstarters, since they fail to explain the more complex in terms of the less complex.

The logic of this position is that evidence for God is impossible, for if there were evidence of God, it would provide us with an explanation of the more complex in terms of the less complex. But this is impossible by definition. The search for such evidence is doomed at the start. - Reppert
First, a little background.  Dawkins was commenting on the theistic teleological arguments for the existence of God.  These arguments generally state that the universe or things within it exhibit a complexity or functionality that couldn't possibly be achieved by any accident of nature, and therefore must be the result of an intelligent designer.  This kind of argument is supposedly empirically based.  If we observe that human designers create things that have complexity or functionality that nature doesn't produce on its own, we might then reason that there must be a God who has designed many of the things we see in our world, including human beings, who possess the most complex thing known to us - our brain, which is responsible for our own intelligence.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Reppert and the Principle of Charity

What would you think if a child brought home a report card with a B grade on it, and his father told him that he was stupid and he would never amount to anything?  I think many people would agree with me that the parent is being abusive, and that his behavior could potentially be damaging to the child, especially if that was part of a pattern that persisted throughout the son's childhood years.  What should we do about this parent?  Take the child away from him?  Lock him up in prison?  I don't think so.  The parent has broken no laws.  Some of us may not like the way he treats his child, but he is within his rights as a parent.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Responding to Hinman (Again)

Joe has written a new article, this time specifically about me.  This is actually the second article he has written in response to one that I wrote, but this one comes six weeks later, and I thought the issue was forgotten.  Apparently, Joe has been seething all this time, but he has completely ignored what I actually said, and instead imagined that I was attacking his book.  And that's what he's pissed off about.  But it isn't true.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Decline of the New Atheist Movement

There has been much ballyhoo among strident religionists about the decline and fall of the so-called New Atheist movement.  This has been going on for at least six years now.  Nearly four years ago, the Catholic Herald announced that "New Atheism is Dead".  Many others have been talking about the decline of the movement, as evidenced in this Conservapedia article, or the ongoing pronouncements of Shadow To Light, where these claims form a steady drumbeat, culminating, perhaps, in an obituary for the movement. Nevertheless, I don't expect to see Mikey stop beating a dead horse anytime soon.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

What Do Evolutionists Really Believe?

JBsptfn has cited more propaganda from his chief source of pseudo-scientific bullshit, Pogge, who runs the creationist site Science Against Evolution.  The article he cited was written by Pogge in response to a commenter some years ago, who noted his poor grasp of scientific facts.  It attempts to dispel the notion of abiogenesis by providing a distorted view of scientific thinking on the topic and complaining that they teach this stuff in schools.  And where does Poggie get his information about what they teach in biology class?  From CliffsNotes, of course.
But, in the interest in fairness, we will quote the foremost authority on Biology (and English literature, too) most widely read by high school and college students in America. No matter what textbook is used in class, you can be sure that what the students really read is Cliffs Notes! - Pogge
The synopsis for this CliffNotes educational resource describes it as:
what you'd expect-—and want—from CliffsNotes: a no-nonsense quick review of biology that high school and Biology 101 students can use to review biology. - Cliffs Quick Review Biology Synopses & Reviews
Obviously, Pogge never took biology himself.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Hinman's Incoherency Problem

Joe Hinman has just published another example of his muddled theistic thinking.  The article, called Do God's Omniscience ,Omnipotance, and free will Contradict? purports to answer the problem often posed by atheists of how God's omni qualities can co-exist without contradiction.  The problem, as he states it, is this:
God is asserted to be all good, all loving, all knowing, all powerful, in possession of free will and having imparted free will to human beings as well as being eternal and uncaused as well as outside of space and time while acting in a time sequence of events within space and time.  Sorry, one simply cannot make rational sense to reconcile all these asserted properties. They contradict each other in various ways making the whole package incoherent by it's own theistic definitions. (highlight in original)
Joe castigates atheists for their shallow thinking on this subject.  But he fails to answer that question, and in the process, reveals his own shallow thinking.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Argument From Non-Causality

Don McIntosh has taken on quantum mechanics in his recent article Why a Quantum-Mechanical Universe Still Requires a Cause.  This article tries to answer the question posed in its title by refuting the validity of a supposed argument made by atheists (actually a straw man) that the universe is uncaused.  And in doing so, Don commits a logical fallacy of his own.

Don's argument may be stated this way:
1.  Atheists argue that the universe is uncaused.
2.  The atheist argument is not logically valid.
3.  Therefore, the universe is not uncaused (and hence, the title of the article).
Let's examine this in more detail.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Ruminations on a Trump Presidency

Now that things have calmed down a bit, it's time to reflect on the outcome of the election.  I heard Trump's gracious sounding remarks the other day, and I thought there might be some hope that this guy isn't as much of an asshole as he made himself out to be during the campaign.  It just might be the case that it was all a facade designed to get the votes of millions of bumpkins who don't know the first thing about government, or economics, or world affairs, or science, but are outraged that gay people can get married.  People who would vote for a man whose whole life history exemplifies everything they say they despise, because he's now singing their tune.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Why Don't Scientists Believe in God?

Mikey at Shadow to Light is stumped once again by the views expressed by atheist scientists.  He has dug up a three year old a video compilation of fifty scientists (actually one of a series of similar videos) making brief comments about their views on atheism or agnosticism as proof of his contention that the scientists' atheism is unjustified.  The problem is that this video doesn't make any claims about providing arguments to justify atheism.  It merely contains brief snippets of scientists talking about belief.  The video was compiled by Dr, Jonathan Parajasingham, who says:
I do not claim that this video demonstrates there is no God. It is not an argument against God in itself ... Parajasingham
So what is Mikey's beef?  It seems that no matter what atheists say or do, he is bound to find fault with it.  But that has no bearing on the truth of what they say.  He either fails to understand or he deliberately misinterprets everything that doesn't agree with his ideological beliefs.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Misrepresenting Science

Elaine Ecklund from Rice Universtiy has stirred the pot again, with the publication of yet another paper, which appears in the journal Public Understanding of Science, about a study that makes questionable use of data relating to scientists' views of the compatibility of science and religion.  The data includes a number of opinions by Dawkins opponents in the scientific community.  The study is titled "Responding to Richard: Celebrity and (mis)representation of science".  That title alone should alert readers to the potential for bias in its findings.  Ecklund has revealed her own bias by tweeting: "British scientists really, really dislike Richard Dawkins, our new study discovers".  This appears to be the biased opinion of Ecklund herself, rather than the actual majority view of scientists.  Her view is not supported by the data in her own study.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Hinman's "Argument From God Corrolate [sic]"

After some discussion about the merits of Joe Hinman's use of empirical data to make claims that belief in God has scientific justification, Joe presented a succinct version of his argument for God belief based on empirical observation.  I'll review and critique his argument here.  This argument is a distillation of the material he presents in his book The Trace of God: a Rational Warrant for Belief.  I will not discuss the book, which I have yet to read.  I will limit my discussion to the argument as presented by Joe in this post.

Joe starts out from a very reasonable position, which is basically that if God interacts with the physical world in some way, then we should be able to observe the effects of that interaction.  If we can know that some observed evidence is the result of divine interaction with the world, then we can infer the existence of a divine being.  The pertinent question is:
How do we know this is the effect, or the accompanying sign of the divine?
All this is quite reasonable, and Joe's argument purports to answer that question.  But of course, the devil is in the details, as we shall see.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Skeptical About Skepticism

At Shadow to Light, Mikey has outdone himself.  Turned a news story about the zealotry of Christian Trump supporters into a full-blown conspiracy theory about hoaxers trying to make the Christians look bad.  And he does this in the name of skepticism.  It seems that the story, after appearing in a number of news outlets, was repeated by Hermant Mehta, at his blog, The Friendly Atheist.  What's the problem with that?  According to Mikey, Mehta should have been more skeptical about the story, because he didn't raise the question of its being a hoax.  No, what he did was to report it pretty much the way the initial news reports did, without embellishing the facts with speculation about what might really have happened.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Christians in Love

Love to faults is always blind,
Always is to joy inclin’d,
Lawless, wing’d & unconfin’d,
And breaks all chains from every mind.

Deceit to secresy confin’d
Lawful, cautious & refin’d
To every thing but interest blind,
And forges fetters for the mind.

    - William Blake
If you try to tell a man in love that his beloved is not the most beautiful, the most intelligent, the most wonderful thing that has ever graced this planet, you will likely be met with resistance, and you just might get punched in the face.  Love is blind, they say.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Children of the Lack of Objectivity

Joe Hinman raises an issue that is worth considering.  It is the question of how we can relate to something for which we have no familiarity and no experience.  It may not be easy to understand something that you've never seen or never experienced.  He asks the question:
How could someone born blind understand the difference in blue and green or yellow?
After calling atheists' theorizing about religious belief "simplistic an totally wrong headed", and "shallow and senseless", He sums it up this way:
Religion doesn't exist because people tried to explain why it rains. It exits because people sense the numinous. They sense this aspect of something, the sublime, the spiritual, the nether regions but something that is special and beyond our understanding.
What Hinman wants us to think is that atheists have no understanding of Christians' belief in God because they haven't experienced it for themselves.  Of course, this is the same old trope that we hear over and over again.  And it's just not true.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Religionist Frothing at the Mouth

Over at Shadow To Light, Mikey wages a never-ending campaign of hatred against "New Atheists", or Gnus, as he often calls them.  Now he's picking on a kid for simply advocating secularism in the home.  That's all.  This 17-year-old, known as Cosmic Skeptic, seems pretty level-headed to me.  Did he say anything hateful or unkind toward religion or religious people?  No.  Did he make some snarky remark, or use ridicule?  No.  He simply expressed his opinion that parents should allow their children to make their own decisions about religious beliefs without being coerced into any particular religion by the parents.  And for that, Mikey has branded him with the pejorative label of "Gnu".

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Money, Money, Money

I just watched a political advertisement for Trump.  "Here's what you'll get if Donald Trump is elected president."  It promises big tax cuts and credits for individuals and businesses, amounting to thousands of dollars.  A quick calculation reveals that these tax cuts could total hundreds of billions of dollars per year.  How very generous of him.  One thing the ad didn't mention is the even bigger tax cuts he promises for wealthy people like himself, so he won't have to cheat so much.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Don McIntosh on Evidence - Wrong

Christians invent many ways to make themselves seem rational and reasonable while making atheists seem irrational and unreasonable.  While it is undoubtedly true that some Christians are quite reasonable, and some atheists are unreasonable, when you try to paint them with a broad brush, your depiction is likely to be distorted.  And this is especially true when you try to turn the tables on reality.  But that's what Don McIntosh attempts in his latest posting at the Christian Cadre, called The Celestial Teapot and Christian Theism.  Don has presented a straw man for the atheist's view of evidence and the opposite of that - an iron man - for the Christians' view.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Attack of Logical Positivism

I keep hearing about logical positivism - not form atheists, but from theists who seem to want to use it as a defeater for atheism.  And I have to ask myself, why do they keep bringing this up?  There are certain theists who insist that materialism implies logical positivism, or that empiricism is equivalent to logical positivism.  I often hear the less sophisticated ones ask in an accusatory tone, "What's the difference between your beliefs and logical positivism?"

But it's not just the philosophically unsophisticated theist who raises this issue.  Even the trained philosophers among them, while not directly calling atheists logical positivists, still make claims that their materialistic beliefs are somehow founded upon logical positivism or at least that modern materialism arises from its ashes.  And in doing so, these philosophers feed the troll and keep it alive.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Silencing the Opposition

Over at Atheism Analyzed, Stan has lost his cool again.  Or perhaps it's the case that he never had any "cool" in the first place.  One thing's for certain: if you present a serious challenge to his incessant stream of ideological propaganda and outright lies, you will not be allowed to comment in his safe space for bullshit.

Stan considers himself to be the epitome of rational thinking.  He has a number of featured posts on his blog that attempt to "educate" his readers on the logical incoherence of atheism (a topic that I have discussed before, and found that his own logic suffers from some serious flaws).  Stan also is an avid denier of climate science, and especially evolution theory, a topic that I addressed here.  When he is challenged on these things, his responses tend to be emotional and loaded with ad hominem attacks.  And one of the emotional responses he is prone to make is to ban the challenger.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Playing by the Rules

It must be difficult for a Christian trying to make sense of a world where literally any outcome is possible.  If God can decide to overrule the laws of nature at his whim, then how can we ever know that things will behave in a predictable manner?  How can we even say that there are laws of nature?  And what is the value of science?

In the Christian world, God's intervention is more than just a rarity.  It happens all the time.  What Christian denies the existence of miracles?  It's not just the astounding feats performed by Jesus.  It's little things that happen every day.  It's changing the natural course of events in response to prayers.  It's God's guiding the entire course of natural history, from the creation of the universe, to the deliberate and careful steering of events over a span of billions of years that would eventually result in the evolution of mankind.  In the Christian world, every biological creature is designed, and every beautiful sunset was made specifically for our benefit.  In other words, the course of natural events is governed by the dictates of God - not by some set of impersonal and meaningless laws.  The laws of nature are, at best, merely rules of thumb.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Overlapping Magisteria

Back in 1997, Stephen J Gould published his essay Nonoverlapping Magisteria, in which he proffered his accommodationist views, giving encouragement to the church - that their increasingly anachronistic beliefs are still relevant, and that they still offer a kind of knowledge that science can't.  Gould claimed that there is no conflict between science and religion, because they have different areas of "expertise" that don't overlap.
The lack of conflict between science and religion arises from a lack of overlap between their respective domains of professional expertise.
We may, I think, adopt this word and concept to express the central point of this essay and the principled resolution of supposed "conflict" or "warfare" between science and religion. No such conflict should exist because each subject has a legitimate magisterium, or domain of teaching authority—and these magisteria do not overlap (the principle that I would like to designate as NOMA, or "nonoverlapping magisteria").
The net of science covers the empirical universe: what is it made of (fact) and why does it work this way (theory). The net of religion extends over questions of moral meaning and value.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Nagel's Religionist Authority Problem

Thomas Nagel is confused.  He has described what he calls the "cosmic authority problem" as if it haunts all atheists.
The priority given to evolutionary naturalism in the face of its implausible conclusions is due, I think, to the secular consensus that this is the only form of external understanding of ourselves that provides an alternative to theism. - Nagel
In his essay Evolutionary Naturalism and the Fear of Religion, he writes the passage that has been quoted by many a theist as evidence of the irrational nature of atheistic thinking:
I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear.  I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Muddying the Water - Natural vs. Supernatural

When I hear theists raise questions about what is natural, I often get the feeling that they are deliberately blurring the line between natural and supernatural so as to cast doubts on the naturalists' way of thinking about what exists and what doesn't.  By trying to make it seem as if there is no reasonable definition for "natural", they then believe they are justified in denying the naturalist's claims that supernatural things don't exist, or at least to make the case that there is no definitive way to distinguish one from the other.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Where the Conversation Goes Wrong

Don Johnson is a Christian apologetic, talk show host, and author of the book How to Talk to a Skeptic: An Easy to Follow Guide for Natural Conversations and Effective Apologetics.  He has posted an article in his blog called The Most Common Mistake when Talking with Skeptics.  In this article, he makes a case for engaging the skeptic by first asking questions about his background and about the positions he holds, and then listening carefully to the answers.  That's very reasonable.  This approach is far superior to the typical conversational style we see, where the Christian takes an adversarial stance against the non-believer before the conversation even begins.  If more of them would follow Johnson's approach, I have no doubt that these conversations would tend to be more fruitful.  But Johnson himself commits the single most common mistake that leads to the ultimate derailment of the conversation.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Trump and Bannon - Peas in a Pod

It shouldn't come as a great surprise that Trump has hired Stephen Bannon from Breitbart News as the chief executive of his campaign.  The two were made for each other.  Like Trump, Bannon is a racist, anti-immigrant nationalist, who despises any form of expression of concern for the rights and well-being of those who are not members of his own "tribe".  And like Trump, he's willing to tell any lie to gain a broader base of support.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Christian Narrative

It is amusing to watch Christians disagree with atheists about the definition of common words.  We have seen many times how they spar over the definition of 'faith', with Christians insisting on a definition that is not found in any ordinary dictionary.  And we also see the same kind of battle over the definition of 'atheist'.  Both of these words are found in common usage, so they are not considered to be technical terms that are understood only by people in certain academic or professional circles.  However, Christians prefer to use these words in a non-standard way that carries different meaning - one that fits their own agenda.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

More Theistic Illogic

You have to hand it to Christians.  They have an uncanny knack for twisting logic to conform with their beliefs and making it seem reasonable.  At least, reasonable enough to have some appeal to anyone who is willing to forgo rigorous logical thinking for the sake of preserving of their illogical beliefs.  The desire to confirm beliefs that they acquired through non-rational means is what drives them down the path of irrational thinking.  The risk of suffering the possibly deep emotional impact that would result from abandoning their beliefs and their lifelong investment in that system of beliefs is too much to bear for the sake of gaining a better understanding of reality.  So they either go to great lengths to cover up the gaping holes in their thinking, or they simply ignore those holes and pretend they don't exist.  These tactics are clearly illustrated in two of Victor Reppert's recent posts - one that simply ignores a blatant logical hole, and the other that makes an effort to cover it up with obfuscation.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Ex Nihilo Fit Aliquid

I have at various times found myself at odds with certain philosophers who think they have a monopoly on rational or logical thinking.  This particularly seems to be the case with philosophers of religion, whether they are religious or atheist.  Quentin Smith said that specialists in PoR always make better arguments than non-specialists.  This is based on nothing more than their training, but it ignores what it takes to make a sound argument: the logic must be valid, and the premises must be reasonably supported.  And this, in my experience, is where theistic philosophers usually fall flat.  It doesn't matter whether you have a good grasp of the nuances of theistic arguments - if they are based on unsupported assumptions, they are not good arguments.  Philosophers tend to get lost in all those nuances - the twists and turns of logic that comprise theistic justification for their belief - and they forget the more basic aspects of sound argumentation.  They don't bother to ask whether the assumptions that are the basis of those arguments are really true.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Intellectual Dishonesty of Creationists

I saw an interesting article in Atheism Analyzed, called Evolutionary Theories, Macroevolution, Quality of Evolutionary Science, where the creationist author, Stan, uses deceptive trickery to make the case that evolution science is not well founded.  His general approach is to quote selected passages from various people regarded as authorities in the field, to show that there is serious disagreement among them.  The trouble is that some of these "authorities" are actually creationists whose goal is to de-legitimize genuine science and promote their own pseudo-science, and others are actual evolutionists taken out of context and their meaning is distorted.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Hinman's Argument from Organizing Principles

Victor Reppert has posted an argument for the existence of God by Joe Hinman that strikes me as unbelievably vapid.  I would love to go to Hinman's site and debate with him, but ever since I criticized his book, I have been banned from from about a half dozen sites that he is associated with.  Pity.  The argument goes like this:
1. Any rational, coherent, and meaningful view of the universe must of necessity presuppose organizing principles (Ops)
2. OP's can be summed up in the TS, the transcendental signified.
3. Philosophical Naturalism rejects the transcendental signed.
4. Therefore, Philosophical Naturalism fails to provide a rational, coherent, and meaningful view of the universe.
5. Minds organize and communicate meaning

6. Therefore universal mind, offers the best understanding of TS

7. Concept of God unites TS with universal mind therefore offers best explanation
rational, coherent , and  meaningful view.
This argument is built around the concept of the "transcendental signified", which is nothing more than a theistic assumption masquerading as a sophisticated philosophical concept.  It is the idea that there is a center around which everything else is structured.  The center itself exists independently, and serves as the source of meaning, or the "organizing principle" that everything else is based upon.  The thing that best exemplifies the concept of "transcendental signified" is God.  In fact, I have a hard time thinking of anything else that would qualify.  There may be organizing principles for various things, but most of them don't seem to qualify as transcendental.  So this idea is really just a theist's way of defining God into existence.  See a discussion of "Transcendental Signified" here.

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Mystery of the Trinity

Old Testament contains many remnants of polytheism, including a council of gods and gods of other nations, and even mentions dozens of them by name, including Baal, Ashtoreth and Molech.  The fact of early biblical polytheism is admitted and explained away in some Christian apologetic texts such as this one, but there is no question that Hebrews were polytheistic, and eventually settled on monotheism, at which time they attempted to clean up some of their scriptures to make clear the dogma of one god, as seen in Isaiah 45:5–6.  It is believed by most scholars that the Hebrew god Jehovah (or Yahweh) was the chief god of the Hebrew people (as one of numerous peoples of the time, who each had their own state religions and their own gods), and over time came to be viewed by the Hebrews as the chief of all gods, and eventually as the one and only God.  Nova discusses the polytheistic roots of Judaism.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

What Qualifies As Evidence?

Have you ever heard of a murder investigation where the police focus on a certain suspect and collect evidence with an eye toward nabbing that suspect, while ignoring other evidence that would lead them to someone else?  Unfortunately, this kind of thing happens all too often, and in many cases, it results in the wrong man being arrested for the crime.  In such a case, the investigation is not being conducted properly.  Police shouldn't gather evidence for suspect A - they should simply gather evidence.  And when all the evidence has been collected, a process of reasoning typically leads to the conclusion of what scenario is most likely to have occurred that would result in the evidence that we now observe.  That scenario includes the manner of death (was it a murder or something else?) and the course of events that led to the death, including the people involved and what actions they took.

This is the true nature of evidence.  It is simply a set of observable facts about some state of affairs.  The evidence tells a story, but only after using a process of reasoning from the facts to a conclusion.  Evidence, in and of itself, could lead to one conclusion or another, depending on the reasoning used.  Good reasoning can lead to conclusion A, which is correct.  Bad reasoning can lead to conclusion B, which is false.  In both cases, the evidence is the same.  In other words, evidence is not evidence for A or for B, it is just evidence.  It is the process of reasoning that makes us say something is "evidence for B", but that reasoning could be wrong.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Dennett's Compatibilism

This is a follow-up on my earlier post on Determinism and Responsibility, where I presented my own views on responsibility in a deterministic world.  This view is not shared by all materialists.  In one of my recent discussions, there was disagreement over the notion of compatibilism being a "cop-out", as stated by John Searle.  Many materialists agree with Searle.  But others, including Daniel Dennett, take a compatibilist stance.  The compatibilist stance says that because we consider the consequences of our actions, we have responsibility for what we do.  The incompatibilists, on the other hand, hold to the line that because our actions are fully determined, the actor cannot be held responsible for what he does.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Labeling the Enemy

When I started reading Victor Reppert's Dangerous Idea, it quickly became apparent to me that many of the theists there have little interest in conducting a friendly dialog with non-believers.  People are divided into camps with an attitude of defending their own side and attacking the other.  When the us-against-them mentality becomes prevalent, then reasoned discussion tends to lose out.

Sure, Victor pretends to be a champion of Socratic debate and rational discussion, but then he never fails to get his digs in against the likes of Richard Dawkins, whom he has repeatedly labeled as a "gnu" atheist.  Dawkins is one atheist that Victor will never listen to and never understand, simply because he is one of those on the other side of the divide.  It really doesn't matter what he says.  It doesn't matter if he makes a statement that is reasonable and nuanced and worthy of discussion.  Victor will take an uncharitable view of it, dismissing any possible merit it might have, and at the same time dismissing any possibility of rational discussion on the very issues in which he claims to bemoan the absence of reasoned debate.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Determinism and Responsibility

Many Christians are confused about determinism as it relates to morality.  They seem to think that if determinism is true, then people are at the mercy of the winds.  There is no moral responsibility and no point in even trying to decide what you should do.  After all, everything is just molecules in motion.  People have no choice about what they do, and no way to change the course of events, which is all determined beforehand.  They confuse determinism with fatalism, which is the incoherent notion that our deliberative processes play no causal role in the outcome of events.

According to Christians, the correct way to view it is that God gives us free will, which is the ability to choose what we will do, and the moral responsibility to do the right thing, which is determined by God.  But this Christian view of free will and morality is hopelessly incoherent, as I shall demonstrate.  And furthermore, the Christian view of determinism is hopelessly naive.  They simply don't account for reality.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Warrant for Skepticism

Joe Hinman has been ubiquitous in many internet forums, always urging people to buy his book, "The Trace of God: A Rational Warrant for Belief".  This article is not a review of Hinman's book, but a commentary on his approach to scientific examination of an issue.  Hinman calls mystical experience "empirical evidence of the supernatural".  The thesis of his book is to show that the scientific evaluation of empirical data relating to mystical experiences provides a rational scientific basis for belief in God.  However, if that were really the case, the scientific community would be buzzing with the news of this empirical evidence for God.  It is not.  The fact of the matter is that the scientific community has yet to recognize the existence of any such evidence.

Friday, July 15, 2016

On the Meaning of Faith

Metacrock (Joe Hinman) recently re-posted an old article on the meaning of faith.  The thrust of this article is that when atheists speak about religious faith, they define it as a straw man.  They define faith in such a way that it doesn't apply to what Christians actually believe.  And by that, Hinman means that we use the dictionary as our source of definition rather than something contrived and approved by theologians as a concept of faith to be used in the indoctrination of Christians.  Of course, the theological concept bears no negative connotation whatsoever.  If it did, it wouldn't be approved by theologians, whose goal is to cast it in the best possible light.  But that says little or nothing about how the term is used in actual discussion, particularly among those of us who aren't apologists for the faith.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

How the World Should Look

I was intrigued to read an article in Crude Ideas that pushes back on the claim sometimes made by many naturalists: "The world looks exactly the way it should look if God didn't exist."  Crude considers this to be an intellectually vapid statement that theists can easily deal with if they just use the right tool.
Intellectually, there's a way to describe it: weak. It's nothing but a subjective claim (not even an argument) with little in the way of intellectual content, little in the way of evidence. Powerful subjectively, but most self-described atheists aren't going to want to stick with it once the subjective, evidence-free aspect is pointed out to them.
But what is the right tool for answering this claim?  It isn't theistic arguments like the cosmological arguments.  It is "an explanation of metaphysics and God's role in relation to such" that will do the trick, he says.  If only we naturalists had some inkling of the fundamentals of metaphysics, we would understand how stupid it is to make a statement like that.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Fortress of Belief

I've been arguing with Joe Hinman on the topic of my previous post.  The issue at hand was the accusation that atheists employ "God of the Gaps" reasoning, as espoused by Mikey at Shadow to Light.  I concluded that Mikey's assertion is just a case of "I know you are but what am I?"  My major point is that if a naturalist becomes convinced that God is real, it would be because of undeniable evidence that can't be explained by naturalism.  God of the Gaps belief, on the other hand, relies on a lack of evidence.  It simply assumes that God is the default explanation for anything where a full scientific explanation is lacking.  There doesn't have to be any evidence of supernatural phenomena to support God of the Gaps belief.

Hinman has taken issue with much of what I had to say about this topic.  To respond in detail to what I said, he has made a post of his own in one of his many blogs, called Atheistwatch.  I would like to answer all of the points he raises, but his posts are so long and rambling, lacking in cogency, and filled with fallacies and misunderstandings, that it is impractical for me to address them all.  I could spend all week trying, but I have a life.  So I'll limit myself to some of the most salient points that he makes.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

God of the Gaps Reasoning

"God of the Gaps" is a term that atheists often use to describe the nature of theistic belief in a world where science provides increasingly more natural explanations for things that were once explained by God.  Perhaps the most striking example of natural explanations replacing theistic ones is the origin of animal species.  This was once though to be the work of a divine intelligent creator, but now science has eliminated the need for any "goddidit" explanations.  There is a powerful and elegant explanation that does a much better job of answering some of the tough questions associated with the old theistic theory, such as "why are there so many apparent design flaws that are shared among related species?"  The theist at best can offer only a hand-waving rationalization, while the evolutionist can give a detailed explanation of how these things occur.  And so the natural explanation proves to be superior to the theistic one, which falls by the wayside.  And this is what happens in one field of science after another.  As science progresses, theistic explanations vanish.  Theists who once explained all of nature in terms of godly and supernatural forces are reduced to invoking these explanations for the dwindling number of things that have not yet been fully explained by science.

Monday, June 27, 2016

A New Take on New Atheism

I was reading one of Ed Feser's recent posts, in which he takes his customary swipe at "New Atheists".  This time, he didn't criticize anything that a particular person said or did, holding it up as an example of the bad behavior that he so often decries among the breed of modern atheists that he so despises.  This time, Feser takes a pot-shot at the broader community of modern atheists who he thinks fail to understand the implications of their own beliefs in the manner that some of the "Old Atheists" like Nietzsche did.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Religious Gays at War With Themselves

As pundits everywhere struggle to understand what motivated Omar Mateen to shoot scores of people in an Orlando gay nightclub, we see an ideological split among folks of different political persuasions.  Was it Islamic radicalism?  Was it hatred of gays?  The left wing tends to want to pin it on homophobia, while the right wants to pin it on Islamism, each according to their own political agenda.  Blogger and Christian culture warrior crude, naturally, is in the latter category.  In a recent post, he manages to make a slam against gay culture while at the same time ridiculing the notion that the attack was the product of anything but Islamism.

It seems reasonable to me that the real picture is more nuanced than either side may be willing to admit.  There is good reason to think that Mateen was homophobic - after all, he chose to target gay people in his attack.  At the same time evidence indicates that he was gay.  Also, Mateen publicly declared that he conducted this attack in support of ISIS, in retaliation for the people killed by US air attacks.  But he was a US citizen, born and raised in America.  And by the way, America, with its predominantly Christian culture, is where he learned to be homophobic.  So there seems to be at least some merit to the claim that our Christian culture might have had something to do with it.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Fundamentalism Is About Fundamentals

After the terrorist attack in Paris, Richard Dawkins tweeted the famous line "If you don't like your religion's fundamentalists, then maybe there's something wrong with your religion's fundamentals".  This often-repeated statement echoes the sentiment of many skeptics of religion who believe that religious scriptures encourage the kind of violent behavior we see so often these days perpetrated by fundamentalist Christians and Islamists.  As described by Jake Stimpson in this article, the fundamentalists are the truest adherents of their religious traditions.  It is the religious moderates who deviate from them.

Sam Harris and others have written extensively on this topic.  Harris is critical of religious moderates for their role in perpetuating Iron Age barbarity, as seen in this excerpt from his book The End of Faith.  But as we know, Harris is a "new atheist".  As such his every word is subject to harsh criticism from self-appointed defenders of religious nonsense like Mikey at Shadow To Light.   Mikey is so intolerant of reason that he refuses even to listen to the argument of any so-called "gnu".  Instead he proceeds to cut down a straw man.  And as is his custom, he makes a complete fool of himself.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Trump's Bombast and Bravado Appeal to the Stupid

The Donald has established a large base of support by creating a persona based on two main pillars that appeal primarily to people who are unable to discern illusion from reality.  First, he has set himself up as a friend of the regular Joe working class white guy.  Second, he comes across as a tough guy who promises to restore America's position of strength, both domestically and in world affairs.  Both of these pillars are fictions.  His policies are fraught with problems that should be apparent to any sensible voter.  But his target demographic does not consist of sensible voters.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Reppert's XYZ Question

Victor Reppert presents a challenge to everyone concerning the question of what constitutes evidence.  He states it this way:
It goes like this. X is evidence for Y just in case Z.

I've answered the question here at various times, and people are dissatisfied with my answer. Fine. I want to know your XYZ answer. If you are going to tell me I don't have any evidence, then apparently you have a different answer to the XYZ question than I do. But when I ask people what their answer is, I never find out.
Presumably, he wants people to provide some substitution for Z such that it makes a reasonable definition of 'evidence'.  Now this is a topic that he has written about before in his article Victor Reppert on the No Evidence Charge.  His own answer is "X is evidence for Y just in case X is more likely to exist given Y than given not-Y."  This may sound reasonable on its face, but it leads people down the wrong path before they ever have a chance to address the question of "What is evidence?"

Monday, June 6, 2016

On Militant Atheism

What does it mean to be militant atheist?  This is the adjective that is increasingly in vogue among Christians these days when applied to vocal atheists.  The word is defined in Merriam Webster as "having or showing a desire or willingness to use strong, extreme, and sometimes forceful methods to achieve something".  So the term "militant atheism" seems to imply the use some kind of undue coercive measures to remove religion from society against the will of believers.  It is therefore pejorative.  A distinction is drawn between the ordinary atheist, who is tolerated, and the militant atheist, who is seen as a plague upon society.  The ordinary atheist remains meek and silent, and poses no threat.  If he speaks up at all, it is only with deferential respect.  The militant atheist, on the other hand, says what he thinks, and in so doing, threatens to ruin everything for the believer.  And what is his method of forcing his odious beliefs upon the rest of the world?  Free speech.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Republican Support for the Earned Income Tax Credit

Wealthy Republicans say they hate socialism.  They despise anything that smacks of "redistribution of wealth".  That's why they hate any kind of taxation.  A person should be able to keep the money he earns, they say.  And government should be small.  Many believe that the only legitimate function of government is to defend the country, and protect life and property.  The purest of the capitalists will even say that there should be no public roads and schools.  Private businesses can provide such things, and do it more efficiently than government.  People who need to use roads or educate their children would pay only for what they use, and nothing more.

But even most Republicans understand that this Randian model is unrealistic.  Government must play a role in providing infrastructure and services that are part of a thriving economy.  Republicans support government to the extent that it helps them to prosper.  They need roads and bridges and other infrastructure elements to get their goods to market.  So rather than paying for it themselves, they support taxpayer-funded infrastructure.  When it comes to schools, they would prefer to send their own children to private schools, but it sure would be nice if they could get the taxpayers to pay for that too, so they support voucher programs that take money from public schools and hand it over it to them so they don't have to pay their own tuition bills for private education.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Avoiding Confirmation Bias

I was a bit surprised to see that Victor Reppert took a defensive stance in response (I believe) to my previous post, in which I said that he seized upon a certain article that appealed to his confirmation bias.  Victors words were:
It seems to me that the defense of any position can be attributed  to confirmation by its opponents. It is a charge that proves everything, and therefore nothing. - Reppert 
He seems to think that the accusation of confirmation bias was used to refute his argument, but since anyone can be accused of having confirmation bias, it is a meaningless charge.  What's surprising to me is his failure to grasp what it means to say that someone has confirmation bias, and that he would see this as a refutation.  So let me try to set the record straight.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Lie That Never Dies: Christian Apologetics

It is amusing to see Christian apologists like Victor Reppert seize upon any any article they find on the internet that appeals to their confirmation bias.  One topic that Christians have been touchy about is the idea that the church played a large role in the suppression if intellectual pursuit during the historical period known as the Dark Ages.  If you're a Christian apologist, you'd rather believe that there was no such thing as the Dark Ages.  You'd rather believe that intellectual endeavors flourished under the benevolent leadership of the church, and life for the average citizen was just peachy.  There is no shortage of revisionist literature that supports this.  In his customary manner, Victor has uncritically latched onto a review of James Hannam's book God's Philosophers that supports this notion.

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Old Thermodynamics Canard

How frustrating is it to confront someone whose understanding of scientific principles is conditioned on his religious belief?  Just as religious faith is immune to being disputed by any evidence or logic, so too are the false understandings of the workings of nature that the theist employs in his web of self-delusion to rationalize his belief in things that have no basis in reality.  It is one of the mainstays of creationist pseudo-science that the second law of thermodynamics rules out any possibility of life emerging from a chemical primordial soup, or of living things evolving to more complex forms.  The creationist will insist that science is in his favor.  But he is profoundly wrong.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Turning Atheism Into a Religion

It is perhaps the worst kind of insult that a Christian can inflict upon an atheist to say that his atheism is a religion.  You hear it all the time, like here and here.  "Atheism is just as much a religion as Christianity."  "I don't have enough faith to be an atheist," they say.

What makes theists so anxious to characterize atheists as being religious?  It certainly isn't a desire to make us sound noble or virtuous.  Their objective is the opposite of that.  What they are trying to do is to make it sound as if we are irrational and unreasonable, and they do it by telling us we are just the same as them.  They are really making an admission that religion is dogmatic and based on authoritarian dictates.  They are declaring that faith really is belief not based in evidence.  And by accusing atheists of these things, they accuse us of intellectual transgressions, just like the ones that they live by.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Defending Bertrand Russell

What caused God?  To ask this question is to reveal yourself as horrendously ignorant and philosophically illiterate.  The sophisticated philosopher, whether theist or atheist, will assume that you are one of those
atheists who think “What caused God?” is some kind of “Gotcha” question for theists, as if they had never considered such objections before. - Lowder
This uncharitable interpretation applies whether you are just some stupid GNU like Richard Dawkins, or a highly regarded philosopher like David Hume or Bertrand Russell.  They're all ignorant for thinking that there is merit in asking a question like that.  Of course sophisticated philosophers of religion have considered this question and provided sophisticated answers.  But have they really answered in a way that settles the issue?  Maybe some of us just aren't satisfied with the answers we hear.  Maybe there's some justification in continuing to ask the question after all.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Hard Problem of Consciousness

Philosophers who favor a supernatural or dualistic view of mind have contrived an argument that they think poses a major obstacle to physicalism.  It is the so-called hard problem of consciousness, that claims there is an unbridgable gap between physical substance and mental substance.  It is basically the claim that the stuff of conscious experience - the qualia, or qualitative component of consciousness - the texture of our perceptions - cannot be explained in terms of physical substances and phenomena.  But this is an unscientific argument.  It amounts to an argument from ignorance.  It is saying that because we don't yet know how to fully explain consciousness in terms of physical matter and its properties, then there must be something immaterial about it.  This fallacy gives courage to those (especially theists) who choose to ignore the track record of naturalistic science, and instead posit the existence of things like the immaterial soul as the answer to the problem.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Political Correctness of the Right

A favorite target of right-wing wrath is political correctness (PC), and and its supposed practitioners, who are referred to as social justice warriors (SJW).  Political correctness is a pejorative term that denotes the tendency to limit speech so as not to offend any particular group of people, such as minorities, nationalities, or disadvantaged people.  It is often embraced by young, liberal-minded people, especially college students.  In many cases, they have taken it to extremes by instituting overbearing campus speech codes and stifling free expression.  In the worst cases, people have lost their careers for saying things that fall afoul of the SJWs.  These extreme cases give conservatives some legitimate reason to heap scorn upon liberal PC and the SJWs, and I agree with them, up to a point.

However, many on the right tend to see things as black or white.  PC is viewed as a phenomenon of the strictly left-wing, atheist, anti-moral, low-intelligence freedom haters.  It stands in opposition to all that is good and moral.  It's us against conservative ideals.  I've always felt that one of the biggest reasons they have such scorn for PC is that their own (typically religiously motivated) hateful or bigoted sentiments are often held up by the SJWs as being politically incorrect.  In response, many right-wingers will take the very worst examples of PC, and claim that these views are representative of anyone who is liberal or irreligious.

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Incongruity of Divine Simplicity

I previously discussed some problems with the Thomistic metaphysical concept of act and potency.  As expected, it resulted in lots of harsh commentary from the good folks at Feser's echo chamber.  One thing that didn't happen is any kind of cogent rebuttal to the issues I raised.  I am not arrogant enough to think that I am an expert on scholastic metaphysics, or to think that these issues haven't been raised before.  But I can say with confidence that they haven't been answered in a way that is intellectually satisfying to a scientifically-minded skeptic.  I raise these questions because in my opinion, they cast serious doubt on the whole enterprise, and all the explanations that have been offered are simply rationalizations.  The Thomist must live with some cognitive dissonance when he tries to explain how his metaphysics exists in harmony with modern science.

My next area of criticism is the concept of divine simplicity.  This is the notion that God is simple - that he is composed of no parts and has no complexity.  He is identical to his properties: simplicity, perfection, goodness, infinity, ubiquity, immutability, eternity, and unity.  God's is said to be unknowable except by analogy.  His intellect is utterly unlike the intellect of man.  And so we have some problems that demand an explanation.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Incongruities of Act and Potency

Thomism is based on a system of metaphysics that Thomas Aquinas adapted from Aristotle.  Aristotle posited the existence of act and potency as a means of explaining phenomena observed in the natural world.  It was said that movement (which can be any of a variety of types of change) is explained as the actualization of a potency.  Actualization was thought to be the fulfillment of an end or goal.  Movement occurs when an object that has the property of potential with respect to a certain kind of actualization is acted upon by another object that has that actualization.  Take, for example, a cold stone.  It has the potential to become warm, and will do so when placed in contact with a hot stone.  The movement (becoming warm) is the actualization of the potential (to become warm), and is caused by the hot stone (which is warm).

In keeping with this metaphysical system, God is said to be pure actualization (or act).  God is the ultimate cause of all movement, but God himself is not moved by anything.  The reason is that movement requires some potential that must be actualized.  But God has no potential - he is pure act, he is perfectly fulfilled.  But this belief leads to some problems, as we shall see.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Craig: No Explanation Needed

There has been much discussion lately about the need to bring a measure of sophistication to the table when discussing philosophical issues.  I get it.  It is annoying to hear creationists insist that evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics.  This is sheer ignorance.  I have no doubt that trained philosophers feel the same way when they hear some of the things I say.  But there is a difference between scientific and philosophical ignorance.  Scientific facts are not matters of opinion, and are not matters of debate.  The creationist is not only ignorant about thermodynamics, but he is demonstrably, factually wrong.  Period.  On the other hand, someone who asks the question "Who made God?" may be philosophically ignorant, but he's not factually wrong.  The necessary being or the self-explanatory nature of God is not a demonstrable fact.  It's something that one can reasonably reject.  It is a matter of debate.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Defending the Ivory Tower

Philosophers like Victor Reppert and Keith Parsons long for the good old days, when they could sit in their ivory tower and have cordial debates about esoteric philosophical arguments.  As long as the atheists in the room remained duly respectful and didn't push their own beliefs too hard, everything was fine.  And the atheist philosophers among them played the game.  Being educated in the intricacies of high-brow theistic philosophy, they could hold their own in these debates while being careful not to offend their religious counterparts.  The trick to this is pretending that all arguments deserve equal respect, as long as they are made by a member of the elitist club in the ivory tower.*

Philosophy of religion (POR) is quite unlike science or mathematics, where a hypothesis or proof of a theorem can be shown to be false, and once that is done, the community converges on an agreement that it is false, and abandons it.  In POR, when an argument is shown to be logically invalid, or its premises are unsupported by factual knowledge, there is no consensus in the community.  They simply divide themselves into camps that either agree with the argument or disagree with it.  But the cordial debate goes on in the ivory tower.  So while science and mathematics have made solid and beneficial contributions to the knowledge of mankind, POR really hasn't contributed anything tangible.  They just keep debating the same tired arguments, endlessly.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

More Analysis of Atheism

Over at Atheism Analyzed there is a new "atheist discussion zone", which is mostly one-sided, but it is interesting because it reveals so much about how Stan, the owner of the blog, thinks.  I've taken a look at Stan's "analysis of atheism" before.  The discussion we had was not very fruitful.  He is unwilling to listen to anything that might disagree with his beliefs or his reasoning.  In this discussion zone, Hugo Pelland attempts to reason with him, but Stan concedes nothing, under the arrogant delusion that his own logic and analysis are flawless.  It is amusing to read the entire thread (and in particular his discussion of physics, which is mind-numbingly wrong), but I want to focus on Stan's final comment, where he summarizes his "observations and conclusions" about atheism.  I feel this is worthwhile because some of Stan's delusions may be shared with other theists, and they should be addressed, just to set the record straight.

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Prokop Challenge

There is an interesting conversation going on at Dangerous Idea regarding scientism.  The topic of the Reppert's post was Larmer's treatment methodological naturalism, which I discussed in my previous post.  Not surprisingly, the commentary has turned from naturalism to scientism in general.  And true to form, the theists can't help but drag out all their stale old tropes, stereotypes, and falsehoods about people who value science as a method of gaining objective knowledge.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Theists Misunderstand Naturalism

Isn't it interesting that theists love to tell atheists that their metaphysical beliefs are incoherent, but they can't accurately describe what those beliefs are?  I'm following two different blog posts currently where this arrogant attitude is displayed by theists.  One is about metaphysical naturalism, and the other is about methodological naturalism.  In both cases, the theist presents a straw-man version of naturalism, and then argues that it is illogical or incoherent.  The straw man is apparently due to a lack of understanding the naturalist's position.

Let's start with metaphysical naturalism.  On CADRE Comments, Don McIntosh has posted an article called Why I Am Not a Metaphysical Naturalist.  It contains a number of statements about the supposed incoherency of naturalism, mostly based on the implicit assumption of theism.  For example, the dualistic notion that mind is immaterial in essence, and can't emerge from or be supervenient upon the physical is taken for granted, and used as a basis for dismissing monistic materialism as a coherent worldview.  This kind of circular reasoning is pervasive among theists, and I have come to expect it. 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Theistic Argument from Aesthetic Experience

It's a beautiful Easter morning, with fresh snow in the trees and a bright, sunny sky.  I watched a woodpecker outside my window and thought, what magnificent coloration this bird has.  It's a joy to look at.  At times like this, people get a sense of wonder and awe.  They feel connected to nature and happy to be alive.  Many of them think this could only be the work of God.

Likewise, when we hear a masterful musical composition played well, we get a similar kind of feeling.  Kreeft and Tacelli have formulated a simple but elegant argument from aesthetic experience for the existence of God: "There is the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.  Therefore there must be a God."  Of course, they recognize that God is not the author of the music itself, but they believe that without God, there could be no experience of its sublime beauty, because God is the author of objective beauty.  This is similar to many other versions of aesthetic arguments for God.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Cornelius Hunter, Science Denier

On many occasions, I've discussed the relationship between theism and science.  I've argued that science and religion are fundamentally incompatible.  I've also agreed that there have been many scientists who are Christians, but to be a good scientist, one must set aside his religious faith, at least insofar as it relates to his scientific investigations.  Any failure to do so will inevitably lead to unscientific results, as theistic presuppositions find their way into a biased interpretation of evidence, and consequently biased conclusions.  It is particularly disappointing to see someone with a PhD in science wasting his talent and intellect on a pursuit of theistic pseudo-science, under the deluded belief that the broader scientific community has got it all wrong, and that he sees the truth that eludes them.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Incoherency of Theistic Evolution

Mikey, at Shadow To Light, has defended the concept of theistic evolution against charges made by Jerry Coyne that theistic evolution smacks of special pleading.  Coyne argues that nature is wasteful in terms of the creation of billions of planets where creatures might evolve, and millions of species on this planet that only end up becoming extinct, and it involves the unnecessary suffering of countless billions of creatures.  All this, in the view of Christian evolutionists, has the goal of producing one special species on one special planet that is said to be made in the image of God, and can worship him.  Why would God go to all this trouble, instead of just taking a more direct path to creating the end product that he wants? 

Mikey, of course, takes issue with the notion that any of this is unnecessary. 
The first thing to note about his argument is that it is deeply subjective. We have no way of scientifically determining whether a “poofed” reality would be, on balance, better than the reality we experience. If all the “immense amounts of suffering via natural selection, as well as the extinction” was removed from our history, what would the world look like? Why are we supposed to flippantly, and automatically, assume it would be better? If God is supposed to “poof” beings into existence such that there is no suffering, and has never been any suffering, it would seem what the atheists demand is a Teletubbie world. And it’s not clear to me that a Teletubbie world would be better than the world we inhabit.

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Undercover Creationist

I was involved in a conversation with JBsptfn regarding a site called Science Against Evolution.  The stated objective of this site is "to make the general public aware that the theory of evolution is not consistent with physical evidence and is no longer a respectable theory describing the origin and diversity of life."  It is run by R. David Pogge, also known as Do-While Jones, who is a creationist.  By creationist, I mean someone who believes that life has supernatural origins.  But Pogge avoids using the word 'creationist' in his site.  He also avoids using the word 'God'.  In fact, JBsptfn told me that Pogge is not a creationist.  I think this is based on what Pogge himself has said.
Anyone who has read our newsletters knows that we don’t promote any religious views.  Please search all the back issues of this newsletter and see if you can find any example of us promoting a religious view. - Pogge
His site claims to be strictly about science.  Based on what I see on his site and others, there is no question that Pogge is a member in good standing of the creation science community.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Atheist Quotes Misunderstood

When I was at the Atheism Analyzed blog discussing my previous post, one of the commenters there, named Phoenix, was chiding me for suggesting that creationists should read and learn about science, in lieu of spoon-feeding them a full college curriculum right there in the combox.  I decided to check out his blog to see if he had anything of substance to say.  He has mad two posts there.  The first is about ten common atheist lies, and the second is about ten atheist quotes.  Both of these posts were made in 2014.  In both cases, Phoenix believes he has thoroughly debunked the atheists.  The first one received a number of comments, but the second one has remained unchallenged all this time.  So without further ado, here is my response to Phoenix on his post 10 Atheist Quotes Demolished .

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Militant Theism Analyzed

I have been banned again.  In this post, I was falsely accused of deleting Stan's comments (they're all still here).  They called me bully, coward, liar, irrational, and mental case.  They made derisive comments to me.  Then, I said Stan's spiel was phony, and he thought that was uncivil.  Sorry to have offended you, Stan.

* * *

In my recent discussion with some devout evolution denialists at CADRE blog, I was asked to visit the blog of someone who is obviously well respected by them, where I could find some supposedly informative discussion about why evolution theory has no scientific value.  The blog is titled Atheism Analyzed, and it is hosted by a guy named Stan.  The first thing I noticed at this site is the banner, which identifies Stan as a former atheist who "analyzes Atheism, without resorting to theism, deism, or fantasy", and includes some statements about truth and rationality, as well as this: "Atheists have an obligation to give reasons in the form of logic and evidence for rejecting Theist theories."  The second thing I noticed is the kind of posts he has made recently, which are not about atheism, but are politically oriented, ultra-right-wing propaganda - the kind of thing you get from Breitbart or Drudge.  There is also a smattering of anti-science posts.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Hempel's Contrived Dilemma

I see that there is some discussion at Victor's blog about what a problem Hempel has identified for physicalists or materialists.  Of course, Victor, being one who presupposes the immaterial nature of mind, thinks that Hempel was on to something with his supposed dilemma for materialists in defining what is physical.  Hempel's Dilemma is commonly cited by philosophers of mind, especially those who reject materialism in favor of unscientific theories involving ghostly beings or deities.  They believe that it presents a real problem for the physicalist.  I believe that it presents a case of flawed philosophical thinking, and I'll explain why.

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Religion of Science Denial

It is always an interesting, if not trying experience conversing with hard-core science-denialists.  It's one thing to be skeptical of scientific claims.  It's quite another to be actively opposed to and biased against all the claims and evidence of an entire field of scientific investigation.  A skeptic naturally wants to see the evidence.  He wants to have sufficient reason to believe some claim, regardless of where that claim comes from.  A science denier is motivated to disbelieve all claims and all evidence, specifically because they come from a particular field of science to which he is ideologically opposed.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

We Are Better Than You

One of the most common tropes you hear from religious people is some variation of the theme "we are better than you".  The "we" may refer to religious people in general, or it may refer to any subdivision in the taxonomy of religious beliefs and cultures.  The "you" refers to anyone who is not identified as being part of the select group.  Claims of this sort are therefore an expression of some kind of tribalism.  These days, with the declining rates of religious belief, and the corresponding rise of alarm and anxiety among believers, there is deepening concern that the "others" represent an existential threat to their religious culture.

In response to this perceived threat, they tend to revert to the behavioral patterns of their ancestors of long ago who lived in tribal groups with strong social bonding, and fought for their survival against rival groups.  They enhance the social bonding within their own group by differentiating themselves from the "others", often through the use of stereotypes and various dehumanizing devices.  In this way, it becomes morally acceptable to engage them in battle, to inflict harm or punishment, or to treat them dismissively or with disrespect.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

More on Evidence vs. Faith

Victor Reppert sees the evidence as a relationship between the likelihood of a fact and some postulated state of affairs.  Given the postulated state of affairs Y is true, if a particular fact X is more likely to exist, then X is said to be evidence in favor of Y.  To put it in Victor's own words:
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 
In his view, an individual fact is regarded as evidence for or against the postulated state of affairs.  It may then be possible to judge whether that postulation is true, perhaps on the basis of a single fact in evidence, or perhaps by weighing several pieces of evidence for and against the postulation.

In my view, this way of looking at evidence is wrong, and quite likely to result in incorrect conclusions.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Musings on The Principle of Sufficient Reason

The topic of the PSR has cropped up several times in my discussions with theists.  It has generally been seen by them as an inviolable law of nature that provides justification for belief in God as the ultimate reason for everything.  The thinking goes something like this:
1. Everything has an explanation. (PSR)
2. The world exists.
3. Therefore, the world has an explanation for its existence.
4. Whatever is the explanation for the world, must itself have an explanation or reason.
5. Contingent things (including the world) are explained as being caused by something else.
6. The causal chain of contingent things must either be infinite, or must begin with something that exists necessarily or exists as a brute fact.
7. Both an infinite chain of contingent things and a brute fact are rejected as violations of the PSR.
8. Therefore, the ultimate explanation for the existence of the world is something that exists necessarily.
9. God is the thing that exists necessarily, and necessity is the explanation for God's existence.
10. Therefore, God's existence is consistent with the PSR.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Ex-Atheist

How often do you see a Christian blogger or apologist who says he is a former atheist?  Very often, they make that fact so prominent in their on-line identity that it's the first thing you know about them.  Take, for example, Shadow To Light.  He's making a statement that says "I was in the dark as an atheist, and now I've come to enlightenment as a Christian".  This is a common theme.  But sometimes I wonder what kind of atheists these people actually were.  Did they have a philosophical or rational understanding of naturalism?  What kind of evidence did they consider?  What made them change their minds?  And what basis do they have for thinking that Christianity is more rational than naturalism?

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Easy Questions for "Scientism"

Victor Reppert poses questions that he supposes are a difficult struggle for people with a "science-oriented philosophy".  This is the trope of scientism, perpetuated by theists as a straw man, which they can then attack as being an unreasonable and overly limited approach to knowledge.  Victor should know better.  I've discusses this numerous times (for example, here and here), and others such as Jerry Coyne have as well.

What theists call scientism is just an epistemology.  Rather than using made-up words to identify this epistemology, I prefer to use the term empiricism, and the people who adhere to it are called empiricists.  But using philosophically respectable terms like that doesn't fit the narrative that the theists want to purvey.