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.