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.

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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.