Sunday, November 29, 2015

They Did It for God

Two weeks after Islamic religious fanatics unleashed their terror on the population of Paris, Americans are afraid that they might be the next target.  They want to prevent Muslims from taking refuge in the United States, for fear that there might be terrorists hidden among them.  In many cases, these Muslims have themselves been displaced from their own homelands by the religious extremists.  America has traditionally welcomed such people, in the spirit so eloquently expressed by Emma Lazarus.
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Friday, November 27, 2015

On the Indeterminacy of the Physical

James Ross has argued that thought must be at least partly non-physical, in this variant of the Argument from Reason, which he outlines in his paper Immaterial Aspects of Thought.  This argument is quite similar to CS Lewis' AFR, since they both claim that human intellect has properties that cannot be accounted for by any purely naturalistic explanation.  Both of these arguments make claims that are epistemically unjustified and inconsistent with a scientific understanding of cognition.  Victor Reppert's defense of the AFR does this too, and I have argued this point with him, and even showed him some reading material that would help him understand the scientific perspective, but he continues to refuse to learn any relevant science. 

The argument made by Ross is that thinking of a certain type has the property of 'determinacy', which no physical process can have.  In my previous post, I addressed the issue that Ross does not clearly define what is meant by the term 'determinacy'.  He seems to use the term in two distinctly different ways.  But if the word is understood in either of those ways, his claims about the determinacy of the intellect and the indeterminacy of physical processes deny the reality that is clearly observable.  I suspect that like Reppert, Ross must have a similar anti-scientific bent.  I will show that his argument is false.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Indeterminacy of Philosophical Thinking

Some time ago, I wrote about the need to use plain language and clearly defined terms in a philosophical argument.  One of the things I noted was: When I hear an argument stated with "weasel-words" or phrasing that is semantically impenetrable, that is a glaring signal to me that I should be on the lookout for an attempt to evade cold, hard deductive reasoning.  Such is the case with a paper that has recently come to my attention by James Ross called Immaterial Aspects of Thought.  This argument hinges on the meaning of the word 'determinate' (or 'indeterminate').  But the word is not at all clearly defined.  Ross summarizes the argument this way:
Some thinking (judgment) is determinate in a way no physical process can be. Consequently, such thinking cannot be (wholly) a physical process.
This has been restated by Feser as a syllogism:
(1) All formal thinking is determinate, but
(2) No physical process is determinate, so
(3) No formal thinking is a physical process.
When I read these statements, the first thing that strikes me is that it isn't immediately obvious what they're saying.  There needs to be a clear and unequivocal definition of the word 'determinate', or this argument won't hold water.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Harm of Same-Sex Marriage

I have often claimed that same-sex marriage does no harm to anyone, and shouldn't be prohibited.  In this video, Jennifer Roback Morse, a Catholic, presents her religious-based views describing the supposed harms of same-sex marriage.

This is yet another case of piety as a cover for bigotry.  There is absolutely no factual, objective information in this presentation.  For the most part, it just appeals to the emotions of fellow bigots.  She makes plenty of assertions about what's right, but doesn't support those assertions with facts and data.  I'll examine her claims and show that it's nothing more than hot air from someone with a religious-based anti-gay agenda.

Monday, November 16, 2015

A Safe Space for Hypocrisy

I was checking out crude's blog and saw this article: A Safe Space for Marriage:
A same-sex marriage doesn't harm you at all. In fact, being forced to provide a wedding cake custom-made for a same-sex wedding, or take photos of the same-sex couple, doesn't harm you at all.

And yet...

Having a speaker show up on your campus, if you find their views objectionable, is a horrific offense which requires 'trigger warnings', protests, and a safe space, because simply encountering their views is enough to Do Real Harm.
I thought to myself for once I agree with him.  But a closer look reveals that crude appears to agree with the notion that same-sex marriage is harmful, but he has problem with political correctness and those who are bothered by "microagressions".  The comments seem to indicate that the problem is with liberals who hold contradictory positions, according to crude, because SSM actually is hurtful, but speaking freely isn't.  So it looks like I am only half in agreement with him.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Politics of Religious Freedom

Recently, three Republican presidential candidates took the stage at a rally is Des Moines called the National Religious Liberties Conference, targeted toward conservative evangelical voters in advance of the Iowa caucuses.  It was organized and hosted by firebrand pastor Kevin Swanson.  One of the major topics of this conference was the recent Supreme Court Ruling for marriage equality.  But listening to Swanson speak, it was obvious that this was a platform for fear mongering and to spew hatred and stir up sentiment against gays.  The web site for this conference asks these questions:

Monday, November 9, 2015

Victor's Argument for Bigotry

I have to hand it to Victor.  He has a littany of justifications for his anti-gay bigotry.  And it all boils down to religious justification.  This is piety as a cover for bigotry, as I have discussed before.  By his logic, all Christians should have the same anti-gay "principles" that he has.  But they don't.  There are many Christians who don't see this kind of bigotry as a principle of their Christian belief.  And I know that Victor objects strongly to using the term 'bigot' to describe people like him.  My use of the term here has a very specific meaning: someone who practices or advocates the practice of discrimination against some group of people, particularly when that discrimination would deny the equal rights of the victims of that discrimination.  Perhaps he's sensitive about this terminology because he thinks it is used in the much same manner that he uses the term 'atheist'.
I'm not going to argue that atheism always leads to totalitarianism, but ... - Reppert
And then he proceeds to argue that atheism leads to totalitarianism.  And what does this have to do with bigotry?  He seems to be making the case on this basis that atheists (who are the bad guys in favor of SSM) are wrong, and Christians (who are the good guys opposed SSM) are right.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Setting the Record Straight on ID

Some religious people like to think of themselves as being smarter and more logical than all those atheists, who are deluded into accepting a metaphysical view (materialism) that makes no sense to them.  How could nature on its own produce the magnificent complexity of God's creatures, with all their functional parts so well made for their respective tasks - the eyes for seeing, the legs for running, fingers for grasping, and so on?  How can DNA be made to encode the precise protein sequences needed to produce these features without the help of a designer?  And how could an atheist be so stupid as to believe what conventional science has to say about it?

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Religious Interference with Scientific Progress

Pope Francis recently announced to his fellows in the Catholic church that Darwinian evolution is consistent with church dogma, and with that, he has dragged the more reluctant members of the institution, kicking and screaming, into the 19th century.  It is the official position of the Catholic church that their religion is entirely compatible with modern science.  That is, except for the parts that aren't compatible.  For example, the church still rejects virtually the entire field of cognitive science, in favor of their theistic theory of immaterial souls and intelligence that derives from the mind of God.  The church maintains that in cases like this, their dogma is correct, and science just hasn't figured out the truth yet.  But there's no incompatibility.