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 or 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.