Monday, June 19, 2017

What It Means To Be Indoctrinated


Ask any religionist if he has been indoctrinated, and he will swear that he hasn't.  The word 'indoctrination' is something that religionists recoil from.  It's something bad, and it's certainly not what they do to their children.  To them, indoctrination means something like brainwashing.  Like what the Soviets did to their citizens to turn them into loyal comrades, or what many Arabic nations do in their public schools to make them hate Jews.  But definitely not what happens in Sunday School.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Ground of Being


Have you ever heard the phrase "whispering sweet nothings"?  It usually applies to the utterances of someone who says things that sound pleasing but are insubstantial or meaningless, in an effort to flatter or woo his lover.  I have often heard descriptions of God that strike me as nothing more than starry-eyed adulation.  God isn't simply the finest example of every attribute the theist admires - love, goodness, wisdom, etc, etc, - he is identical to each of those attributes.  For example, he isn't merely the ultimate example of a loving person - God is love itself.  And he isn't just perfectly good at some particular endeavor such as morality - he is "essentially perfect", which means, I suppose, that in one fell swoop, the theist has granted God perfection in all endeavors.  He is the perfect provider, the perfect judge, disciplinarian, bowler - whatever you like - he's just the bestest and the mostest.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Heads I Lose, Tails You Win


What does it take to convince an atheist that God exists?  This question has been asked and answered again and again.  But no matter what reasonable response an atheist gives, it is automatically rejected by the religionists.  If an atheist suggests that some supernatural event would be convincing to him, that suggestion will be met with one of two possible responses from the religionist: either "That's unreasonable because you're asking to see something that is never going to happen" or "You wouldn't really accept that as being convincing because your own belief system doesn't allow it as a possibility".  The religionist will never simply take the atheist's answer at face value, because that would be tantamount to admitting that the atheist is being reasonable.  That's something religionists will never admit, regardless of how reasonable the atheist's position might actually be.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Moral Realism = Muddled Reasoning


It has long been my opinion that moral realists (aka theists) are confused about the difference between fact and opinion.  That's not surprising, because theists in general are confused about the difference between objective reality and fantasy.  They speak of God's existence as if it were an objective fact, like the existence of the table in front of me right now.  One might argue that it is only my perception of the table that makes me believe it exists, but that's not true.  I know the table exists as an objective fact because it impacts not only my perception, but it can be detected and measured by physical devices and instruments, as well as being seen and felt by other people.  Nobody says you have to believe first, and then you can see it.  It's there, and I can photograph it and weigh it.  Everyone can see it, regardless of whether they have a certain kind of mindset, or framework of beliefs.  That's the essence of objective reality.

Friday, June 2, 2017

"God Did It" Explains the Ethical Treatment of Slaves


Victor Reppert has pointed out a piece of apologetic fluffery that he sees as evidence that the biblical Yahweh raised the ethical level of the Hebrews above that of the rest of the world.  The article, found in the blog Cold-Case Christianity , discusses slavery in the biblical Hebrew culture, and makes the claim that under Mosaic law, the practice was humane and ethical, especially as compared to the form of slavery practiced in the New World in more recent times.  More on these claims later.  With this "evidence" in hand, Victor believes that the behavior of the Hebrews, as influenced by Yahweh's law, rose to an elevated standard of morality that couldn't be explained under naturalism, which he supposes would entail that people act only in their own self-interest.
You can call Yahweh a moral monster, but somehow, he managed a quantum leap forward in the moral consciousness of the Western world. Quite an accomplishment for the most unpleasant character in all fiction. ... I think these leaps are hard to explain naturalistically. - Reppert

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Reppert On the Scientism Bandwagon


Scientism has been a topic of considerable interest to me lately, mainly because I see it as a major battleground in the war on reason.  As with other monotheistic religions, Christianity has long been hostile to anything that would encroach on its ideology.  In a recognition of the logical absurdity of belief in the Christian mythos, Tertullian proclaimed that faith was incompatible with natural reason.  That attitude is still reflected today in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which places faith above reason as a matter of doctrine.  Most Christians today deny that they are opposed to reason, but when it comes down to matters of science or secular philosophy versus religion, there is no question that their sympathies lie on the side of faith.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Shadow To Light Doesn't See the Light


For some time now, I have noticed that Mikey at Shadow To Light makes the mistake of identifying social justice warriors (SJW) with atheism (as well as other demographic groups, such as transhumanists).  See here, for example.  This is rather remarkable, because the majority of SJWs are not atheists.  This is what Mikey said recently:
It’s good to see that New Atheists have begun to figure out how reality works.  For a long time now, I have criticized one of the central claims of the New Atheist movement, the notion that if we could only get rid of religion, the world would be a much better place.  Not only was there no evidence to support this belief (which, ironically, was little more than faith), but the evidence we did have pointed in the other direction.  And what was that evidence?  The atheist community itself.  A crystal clear example of what I was talking about was Elevatorgate and the rage-filled rhetorical wars between the New Atheists and Social Justice atheists.  The existence of the Social Justice atheists, along with their power and influence, clearly showed there is no reason to believe that a world without religion would be any better than the one we have. - Shadow To Light
So Boghossian finally sees the light because he has criticized SJWs?  OK, the Elevatorgate debacle was an example of ridiculous behavior among SJWs who happen to be atheists.  But that whole episode just goes to show the absurd behavior of SJWs in general.  It says nothing at all about the broader atheist community, nor does it prove or disprove any claims about whether the world would be better off without religion.  Not surprisingly, Mikey fails to explain how he makes the logical link between atheist SJWs and the question of whether the world would be better off without religion.  (And incidentally, the idea that this is a "central claim" of New Atheism is just another of Mikey's lies.  There is no identifiable group called "New Atheists", much less a doctrine common to that group.)

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Problem With Religionism


Shadow To Light recently posted a You-Tube video made by Jordan Peterson expounding The Problem With Atheism.  The point of Jordan's discussion is that, as Dostoyevski said, without God, anything is possible.  It is a repetition of the mindless religionist assertion that God serves as the ground of morality, and without that grounding, there is no rational basis for moral behavior.  So the logical consequence for atheists is a moral void.

Peterson claims that in the absence of God, it would be perfectly rational to base one's behavior purely on self-interest.  It would make sense to set aside any tendencies to act for the benefit of others, and instead do whatever benefits ourselves, even if that includes murder.  The thing that prevents us from behaving in the most rational self-interested way is what he calls "moral cowardice" - the moral inhibitions that result from being indoctrinated with religious beliefs.  So according to Peterson, without God, and without our religious moral indoctrination, everyone would be acting strictly out of self-interest.  The presumed consequence is that a functional society would be impossible to achieve.  And it is God that saves us from the abyss.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Philosophical Elitism on the March


Alvin Plantinga is widely regarded as a leading Christian apologist and philosopher of religion.  Perhaps his most notable philosophical contribution in the field of epistemology is his so-called "Reformed Epistemology", which holds that belief in God is justified without evidence or argument.  According to RE, belief in God is said to be properly basic, or foundational - the same as the axioms of logic or mathematics are considered to be properly basic beliefs that are universally accepted and require no justification.  Thus, RE constitutes a rational basis for belief in God, despite the utter lack of any objective evidence that would provide justification for an empiricist to believe.  A major difference between this and the properly basic beliefs of an empiricist epistemology is the fact that belief in God can be rationally denied without creating a problem of functionality or coherency in one's worldview.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Only Valid Form of Knowledge


I hope to clarify the the religionists' gross misunderstanding about the epistemology of many atheists.  It is an ideology, they say, called scientism.  This was the subject of my previous post, What is the Real Scientism?, where I attempted to explain the difference between scientism from a religionist's perspective, and from the perspective of those atheists who are accused of adhering to it.  Basically, the religionist insists that scientism implies an attitude that science is the only valid form of knowledge.  But that attitude is denied by non-religionists because it doesn't reflect what real people believe.  I hope I am not belaboring this issue too much, but the religionist skull can be very thick, and difficult to penetrate by any thoughts or ideas that are not consistent with their own beliefs.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

What Is the Real Scientism?


I find myself once again defending a reasonable approach to epistemology in the face of religionism.  Epistemology is defined as:
The theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope, and the distinction between justified belief and opinion. - Oxford Dictionaries 
There are two major schools of thought in epistemology: rationalism and empiricism.  The division between them concerns the sources of our knowledge.  The empiricist position is that knowledge ultimately derives from our experience of the world through the senses, while the rationalist thinks that there are other valid ways of knowing things.  These schools of thought correspond roughly to the distinction between skeptical and theistic belief systems.  The skeptic limits his beliefs about what is justified knowledge to that which is supported by empirical evidence, and the theists allows for other forms of knowledge that are less tangible, such as intuition or innate knowledge, or even divine revelation.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Stepping Out of the Box


Victor Reppert asked an interesting question in a recent post:  How are scientific beliefs caused?  It's interesting because it illustrates how his own thinking is boxed in by his ideological presumptions, including the notion of primacy of mind.  This is the way he puts the question to his readers:
Yet naturalists insist that when minds arose, no new mode of causation was introduced. Matter functioned in the same way, it is just that evolution but it into forms of organization that made it seem as if it had purposes when it really didn't, and this explains the very theorizing by which scientists like Dawkins and philosophers like Mackie reach the conclusion that God does not exist. In the last analysis, you didn't accept atheism because of the evidence, you became and atheist because the configuration of atoms in your brain put you in a certain brain state, and C. S. Lewis became a Christian and a theist for exactly the same reason. If this is true, how can the atheist possibly claim superior rationality? - Reppert
According to Victor, materialism, which is the root of scientific thinking, implies that the world contains no rationality - that everything is just matter in motion, following the natural physical laws of motion and nothing more.  Consequently, according to this belief, there is no rational thought, no conscious mind, no intention.  We are all just meat machines who go about or lives like zombies, simply reacting to the physical forces that propel us, not genuinely thinking, not feeling, and not wanting.  Our brains make us do things, but brains are just a collection of atoms.  Therefore, physical state of one brain causing someone to become a materialist is no more rational than another brain state causing someone to become a theist.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Mikey's Subjective View of Reality


If you talk with religionists about evidence for God, they invariably insist that it is clear and indisputable, if only you are willing to see it.  Atheists, they say, willfully ignore the evidence.  They don't have the "eyes to see", and this is their own fault, because seeing the evidence is simply a matter of choosing to accept the truth of religious belief.  And having done that, all is revealed.  The problem for the skeptic is that this is a catch-22 situation.  The skeptical stance is to withhold belief until sufficient evidence is revealed.  But the evidence isn't visible until you first believe.  Once you become a believer, then evidence of God is everywhere you look.  Ask any theist, and you will hear the same thing.  The evidence is overwhelming, they say, and the skeptic is blind for not seeing it.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Would I Become a Christian?


BK puts forth this question in his latest posting at Christian Cadre: If Christianity were true, would you become a Christian?  He supposes that this is the all-time gotcha question that would force atheists to come clean and confess the truth of the faith, or expose themselves as being dishonest.  BK presents three possible responses that an atheist might offer to this question.   One is to deny Christianity without any explanation.  Another is to deny it with an explanation.  And finally the atheist might accept the truth and say yes.  But I think the question requires more depth of discussion before a simple yes or no answer can be given.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

You Can't Get Ought From Is


David Hume famously described the Is/Ought problem: there is no logical means of deriving moral values from statements of fact.  Well before there was any evolutionary theory of morality, he recognized that our will is a "slave of the passions".  Our motivations do not derive from reason alone.  Through instinct, we make judgments about what is right and wrong.  Through our sense of pride, humility, love and hate, we are motivated, and we experience social approval or disapproval as a result of our actions. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Basics of Non-Belief


In my previous post, I noted that in conversions between Christianity and atheism, the stories people typically tell about their own conversion experience are starkly different.  The convert to religion is often driven by emotion, while de-conversion is often rational in nature.  This may have led some readers to think that my opinion of emotional experiences in general is negative, and that I treat those religious conversions derisively.  I certainly didn't mean to convey that impression.  Nevertheless, as an empiricist, it is my opinion that a belief that derives from a rational thought process based on objective evidence is likely to have better epistemic justification than a belief that stems from emotional experience.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Basics of Belief



Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind but now I see
It's a story we've heard throughout the ages.  I was miserable.  I was depraved.  I was suffering.  My life was lacking something.  And then I found religion, and my spiritual needs were fulfilled.

Some variant of this theme is ubiquitous in stories of conversion.  I have pointed out in the past that the big difference I have observed between accounts of religious conversion and accounts of de-conversion is as distinct as night and day.  The atheist de-conversion story is usually a tale of intellectual dissatisfaction with the fantastic claims and the illogic of theism, while the religious conversion story tells of emotional dissatisfaction with the vagaries of life.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Hypocrite-In-Chief Changes His Tune


The current situation in Syria is shocking to people around the world.  Dictator Bashar al-Assad has apparently attacked the Syrian people with sarin gas, resulting in at least 70 deaths, and many victims suffering horribly from the effects of the deadly chemical.  This situation has had an effect on the Donald, too.  He has called it an "affront to humanity", and now says that he is re-thinking his position on Assad.  We'll see how much his position changes.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Refried Epistemology


Last time, I wrote about the arrogance of Christians when it comes to claiming the high ground of morality.  This attitude derives from their absolute certainty in the existence of God, without which, their morality would have no grounding whatsoever.  But this raises the big issue that is still more fundamental: what makes them so arrogantly cocksure about their God in the first place?  Does Steve Harvey have any kind of sound basis for his arrogant dismissal of atheists?  Perhaps it's just a blind acceptance of what the bible tells them.  Sometimes, religionists seek to justify the certainty of their beliefs with arguments, as we see here, but they never doubt that belief, and would never seriously consider any arguments to the contrary.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Grounding of Morality


Having been involved in many discussions with religionists on the topic of morality, I often hear claims that have no basis in reality.  It is particularly annoying when they arrogantly proclaim they hold a monopoly on morality, for example.  This is due to their belief that God is the source or the ground of all moral values.  Without God, they say, there could be no moral values and no moral behavior.  As with their belief in the existence of God, the idea that morality is dependent on God is not consistent with reality.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

When Parody Turns On Itself


I have found myself the subject of yet another post at Christian Cadre.  This time, by none other than JP Holding.  JP is somewhat famous for making gratuitously insulting responses to well-known atheists, such as Ed Babinski, Robert Price, and Bart Ehrman.  Should I feel honored by this?  Hardly.  JP doesn't know the difference between a scholarly argument and a third-grader's crude retort.  To him. they're all just "fundy atheists", they're all stupid, and they can all be answered with facile responses.  Check out his channel at YouTube.  There, you will find many cartoon videos that go something like this:
Stupid atheist says some thing stupid.
Smart Christian says something clever to prove him wrong.
The End.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Mikey's Alternative Facts


Never admit you're wrong.  This is the modus operandi of arrogant and dishonest people for whom winning is everything, and the ends are justification for any means.  When Donald Trump is caught in a lie, he doesn't admit that he's wrong.  He doubles down, piling more lies on top of his lies.  It's a show of strength.  Better to be seen as strong man who can fool lots of people than a weakling who fools nobody, and will compromise his values on the altar of truth.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Wall of Separation


It seems to be a common trope among religionists that the First Amendment to the US Constitution is designed to keep government out of the affairs of the church, but that in no way should inhibit the church from meddling in the affairs of state.  They say the so-called "wall of separation" is just a myth, mainly due to the unfortunate wording of Thomas Jefferson, in his famous letter to the Danbury Baptists, which has been misunderstood.  In their misguided view, Jefferson was not describing anything like an actual wall that separates two things from one-another, but rather something more akin to a pen that keeps the government within bounds, but places no restrictions on the church.  But that raises the question: If that's what Jefferson meant to say, then why didn't he say that?  One answer that seems to elude them is that Jefferson actually meant what he aid.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Trump's Orwellian Speech


One thing that struck me about the president's address to congress was it's positively Orwellian nature.  The speech was fairly well-received, mainly because he stuck to his script, reading from the teleprompter, and not interjecting his usual ad-libs that would likely lead him into trouble.  When this president speaks impromptu, he invariably insults some segment of society, cites "facts" that are patently false, or otherwise puts his foot in his mouth.  That's why simply sticking to the script makes him sound "presidential" by comparison.  On the surface, that speech had a positive tone, and to most people, sounded better than the dark, disparaging, and divisive words we have become so accustomed to hearing from this man.  That is, unless you look beneath the surface, and realize that the picture painted by Trump's words is not what it appears to be.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Best Thing to Happen Since Trump Inauguration


It may be rather dated story by now, but I received the news of the firing of Trump's National Security Advisor Michael Flynn with great delight.  It isn't because I take pleasure in seeing the failures of Trump's new administration.  Rather, it is because I think that Flynn was one of the most dangerous people ever to hold such a position of power and influence in the West Wing.  It is the National Security Advisor's responsibility to serve as the chief advisor to the president on national security matters, member of the National Security Council, and chair of the Principals Committee in the absence of the president.  This should be a non-political and non-ideological position. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Hard Determinism is Immaterialist Woo


Back on the topic of free will again.  As you may be aware, I call myself a determinist who also believes that we are responsible for our own actions.  The idea of free will, as conceived by religionists, is logically incoherent under theistic assumptions about God as the "unmoved mover".  This is a topic I have discussed previously.  But my compatibilist view also doesn't sit well with many materialists.  It is the view of many "hard determinists" that we can be no more responsible for our actions than a billiard ball is for its failure to fall into the pocket after being struck incorrectly.  Human actions are purely the result of a brain that acts in a deterministic manner, subject to the laws of physics, they say, and to think that we can do otherwise is just nonsense.  I explored the topic of compatibilism versus hard determinism in this article.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Dishonesty of Atheists


Those darned atheists.  One of them says one thing, and another says something somewhat different from that.  There is no consistency, and more importantly, no honesty among them.  Or so thinks militant religionist Mikey at Shadow To Light.  In one of his customary tirades against atheists, Mikey has outdone himself with another showpiece of incoherent, mindless raging against the atheist beasts.  Why would I call it mindless?  Because it is difficult to discern exactly why he is so outraged, and why his complaints shouldn't apply equally to religionists, or all of humanity, for that matter.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Problem of Divine Hiddenness


I just read a strange argument from BK, over at Christian Cadre.  In praising Tom Gilson's review of John Loftus' forthcoming book How To Defend the Christian Faith, BK inadvertently undermines Gilson's argument.  But BK's thought process is thoroughly irrational.  He doesn't even recognize that he has abandoned all logical argument in favor of an emotional knee-jerk reaction against the atheist Loftus. 

Before we get to any discussion of divine hiddenness, BK starts out by expressing his dislike of Loftus.  He says:
I don’t like to give the aforementioned Mr. Loftus any recognition on this blog because he is remarkably uninformed about Christian thought even by atheist standards. - BK
Apparently, BK is completely unaware that Loftus was raised as a Christian, and was a fervent believer for more than half of his life.  He holds a Bachelor of Religious Education degree, a Masters of Divinity, and a Masters of Theology.  He was an ordained minister.  He studied under William Lane Craig, and taught apologetics.  In BK's view all this amounts to being "remarkably uninformed".  He then goes on to make the childish proclamation:
For the remainder of this post, I will treat him like Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter by referencing him as “he-who-shall-not-be-named”. - BK
And this sets the tone for the intellectual content of the remainder of his post.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Religion As Child Abuse


Richard Dawkins famously argued that religious indoctrination is a form of child abuse.  Militant theists have used that in an effort to make Dawkins and like-minded atheists seem unreasonable, typically by distorting the meaning of the atheists' words, and trying to make a nuanced position seem much more extreme or outrageous than it really is.  At Shadow to Light, Mikey thinks he has scored a devastating blow against New Atheists who argue that religious indoctrination is a form of child abuse.  He summarizes his main argument in this way:
Atheist activists commonly argue that religious indoctrination is a form of child abuse and thus religious parents have a moral obligation to refrain from instilling their religious views in their children.  This position is fatally flawed.  It ignores the findings of social science that demonstrate a healthy bond between parent and child is essential for the development of a person’s emotional and psychological well-being.  By trying to thwart religious socialization in families headed by religious parents, the atheists are advocating that harm be done to the children.  What makes this even worse is that the atheist position is grounded in hypocrisy, given that the arguments against religious socialization apply equally to political socialization.  That is, while atheists argue that religious indoctrination is child abuse, they have no problem “abusing” their own children with political indoctrination.   The atheist position is essentially nothing more than disguised bigotry that has the potential to do great harm.   Reasonable and ethical people should oppose it. - Mikey

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Anthropomorphizing Nature


Victor Reppert has a new source of arguments that support his theistic beliefs, with which he seems to be quite enamored.  It is the book God's Undertaker, by John Lennox.  I haven't read this book, but from what I have been able to learn about it, it offers a fairly standard array of arguments in support of God-as-designer, and against naturalistic science and the scientists who pose a threat to this theistic world-view.  Here is a well-written review of the book from the perspective of a creationist, and here is a rather brief review from an atheist's perspective.  The creationist reader will find what he wants to hear that will confirm what he already believes, and the atheist reader will find nothing convincing to change his mind.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Science-Philosophy Schism


I am always bemused to see religionists trying to lecture the rest of the world on matters of science and philosophy.  Very often, they try to assert the primacy of philosophy over science.  Joe Hinman does exactly that in a recent post titled Philosophy Still Owns Science.  This can be a tough case to prosecute if you are not well-acquainted with one ot both of those enterprises.  Very often, when Joe tries to expound on the concepts and ideas of scientists or philosophers, he fails to understand what they say, and then misinterprets their meaning, usually to fit with some theistic notion he has.  And that's why it is difficult for me to swallow an argument like the one he makes here.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Christians Defining "Atheism"


Victor Reppert has made an interesting post in which he attempts to define atheism as a religion.  This is a common theme among religionists.  They want to make a lack of belief out to be religion.  One might ask, Why is is so important for Christians to define atheism as a religion?  It's as if they want to place atheists in the same broad category as themselves (ie, religious adherents).  But why would they do that?  You'd think they would want to distance themselves from atheism as much as possible, especially considering the fact that they sharply criticize many atheists for not sharing the same set of epistemological tools they value so much.  For example, the empiricism of many atheists is seen as unduly limiting the sources of legitimate knowledge available to atheists.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Trump Sets the Tone


A few days ago, many of us were wondering if Trump's inaugural speech would provide some reassurance to those of us who didn't vote for him.  We are more divided than at any time we can recall, and this is the perfect opportunity for a new president to reach out to our whole nation - to try to assuage some of the hard feelings, and let us know that he's there for all of us.  That's what we expect of any new president.  That would be the right thing to do.

But the Donald will have none of that.  Because this presidency isn't about bringing Americans together.  It's about taking control.  His message to the majority of Americans who didn't want to see him in office?  "We're in charge, and the things you care about are of no consequence.  The only people Trump reached out to are his cheering squad - his voters and political supporters. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Limits of Credulity


I read an article called The Gospel Truth of Jesus by Christian apologist Tom Gilson, that attempts to debunk the idea that Jesus could have been a legendary figure.  This is in response to a common objection to the so-called "Trilemma" of CS Lewis, which says that Jesus must have been either lunatic, liar, or Lord.  The objection that readily comes to mind for anyone who isn't steeped in religious fervor is that Lewis left out another possibility: the idea that the biblical stories of Jesus could be based on legend rater than historical reality.  But Lewis didn't consider that possibility, and Gilson defends Lewis, on the basis that it is not even worthy of consideration.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

De-Politicizing Science


Shadow To Light objects to the idea of Congress recognizing Darwin's contributions to humanity by designating his birthday as "Darwin Day".  He seems to think this is culture warfare, and undue politicization of science.
This is all yet another example of activists and politicians stinking up the place with their culture warring.  For this is nothing more than grandstanding that attempts to turn science itself into a political weapon and political debate. This is not “honoring science.”  It is politicizing science.  And the last thing Western civilization needs is the further politicization of science. -Mikey
Gosh, Mikey.  Why such a visceral reaction?  What in the world is political about this?  Oh, wait a minute.  I think I understand.  Mikey was reacting to a statement made by Hermant Mehta that says "it’s nice to see a member of Congress honoring science instead of denying it."  You see, what many politicians have done is to politicize science by de-funding or shutting down programs that don't advance their own political or religious agenda.  Mikey objects to politicians stepping away from those policies to simply celebrate science.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Understanding Cosmological Arguments


At the Secular Outpost, Ryan M posted a reasonable effort at summarizing some of the common mistakes made by non-experts in philosophy of religion.  For this discussion, I'd like to focus on the first of those mistakes.
Mistake 1 - [Failing to understand basic cosmological arguments]

- Many non-experts, presumably all atheists, interpret cosmological arguments in general as having the following form:

1. Everything has a cause.
2. Therefore, the universe has a cause.
3. If the universe has a cause then God exists.
4. Therefore, God exists.
5. If God exists, then God does not have a cause.
6. Therefore, God does not have a cause.

The obvious issue is premise 1. Where can we find a cosmological type argument with a premise like that? Not in Aquinas, not in Duns Scotus, not in Leibniz, not in Aristotle, not in Koons, not in Pruss, not in Craig. Probably, no prominent defender of theism has used such a premise, and it's hard to tell if anyone has used it other than people misinterpreting arguments made by one of the listed philosophers.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Science, Miracles, and Skepticism


There is an ill-tempered commenter at Dangerous Idea who thinks everyone except himself is intellectually dishonest.  He spares nobody from criticism, theist and atheist alike, unless they are in full agreement with his own brand of Protestant (or at least, anti-Catholic) theism and far-right-wing politics.  But he is particularly scornful of atheists and skeptics.  And in  his estimation, his command of logic and science vastly exceeds that of any ordinary mortal (after all, he's a programmer).  His name is Ilíon, and he has a blog called Iliocentrism, which is very much an echo chamber where dissenting voices are not allowed.  He was the subject of one of my earlier posts.

A few years ago, Ilíon made a post that mocks the skepticism of those who doubt claims of miraculous events reported in the bible.  This seems to be one of his favorite posts, because he drags it out from time to time at Dangerous idea, in response to anyone who attempts to look at claims of miracles from a scientific perspective, as was the case here, in answer to John Moore, who had given the only reasonable response among the comments to Reppert's post asking whether science unfairly assumes philosophical naturalism.  Moore rightly points out that science necessarily concerns itself with the regularity and predictability of nature (and this is what methodological naturalism, not philosophical naturalism is all about).  And Ilíon, in his usual manner, takes issue with that by linking to his old canard.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Why God Allows Pain


I have seen so many answers to the problem of evil (POE) or the problem of suffering in God's creation that I can't enumerate them.  One thing that seems clear from the very existence of all these theodicies is the fact that Christians recognize that they have a real problem that merits a serious answer, even if they try to minimize that problem or even deny that it exists.  But the simple fact that this problem has been addressed by many Christian philosophers, such as Plantinga, is an acknowledgment that it can't be overlooked.  The problem of evil is often cited as one of the most serious challenges to the logical coherency of Christian belief.