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.