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.