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.