Friday, July 19, 2019

Does God out-abort Planned Parenthood?

From atheist philosopher and blogger Jonathan M. S. Pearce

No one is really a fan of abortion in and of itself, but it is useful a procedure for any number of reasons, and the fetus is often merely a group of cells or something that has no personhood and feels no pain. God has designed and created human beings, in some manner, and appears to love abortion, even though his denizens don’t. Anywhere up to three-quarters of fertilized eggs are naturally, spontaneously, aborted. They either fail to implant or are rejected by the body, or undergo other such problems.
This amounts to perhaps billions of individual blastocysts or embryos over time. God doesn’t appear to lift a virtual finger to stop this. 
But this does raise an interesting question. On the assumption that human personhood begins at conception, combined with the belief that God is that creator of nature, doesn't that mean that Planned Parenthood is a distant second behind the Almighty as an abortionist? 


Friday, July 12, 2019

Of course, there is no proof of God's existence

The textbook that I use in Introduction to Ethics uses as an argument against the Divine Command theory the idea that there is no proof of God's existence. Of course there is a lot of debate about these arguments for God, and there is an atheist side to the discussion. What bothers me in the text is its assumption, without talking about any of the arguments, that of course there's no proof of God's existence. This is a popular belief in our culture, typically arrived at with no real study. 

Why Trump is a Racist

Here. 

I don't use this accusation lightly, and am fully aware that people throw the term around too loosely. But, sorry folks, it really does apply to the 45th President of the United States, and there is no getting around it. If you are accepting him as either passable as President, or at least preferable to, say, the pro-choice position of the Democrats, at least be aware of the price you are paying in supporting a racist as President of the United States.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Human rights and philosophical naturalism

The Declaration of Independence says "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." But what if we have no creator? Then shouldn't it say "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are evolved equal, that they are endowed by evolution with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." An obvious howler. 

But is this a false dilemma? 

Well, there are a couple of other options. One would be skepticism about the idea of human rights in general. States can give or withhold rights as they choose, and there is no moral fact (which is what the Declaration points to), that requires states to guarantee that our rights are respected. Thus, the right not to be taxed without representation, or the right not to be enslaved, is in the hands of whoever has the biggest guns. To accept this is to basically reject the moral foundation of what has energized us ethically over the past century in movements such as the Civil Rights movement. The other option is a kind of robust ethics in a naturalistic universe where the moral fact that states ought not to deprive citizens of certain rights is grounded in something somewhere in Plato's heaven. How such a moral fact can effectively be a deciding factor in someone decision to respect or violate someone's rights is something I have never understood. Jefferson thought he could argue for unalienable rights on the basis of how we as humans were brought into existence--that is, by Nature's God (A Christian God, just not a trinitarian God). If instead we were spat up by a blind watchmaker evolutionary process, then that argument goes out the window. The King can just say "I have the power, you don't, the Redcoats are coming, and if they win, you never had those rights in the first place." Apart from an appeal to God, how do we make the case that we don't just happen to have the rights we have because we won the wars we needed to win? How do we argue that it is not the case that if rights are being denied by some government, then they do not really exist at all? What are the moral consequences not just of atheism, but of naturalistic atheism, which rules out such things as Platonic forms, Aristotelian inherent purposes, laws of Karma, etc. on the same basis that it rules out God?

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

A problem for the divine command theory

How do we decide which god to obey?  Well, we ought to obey a god who exists, so maybe we can rule out Zeus on that account. What if Zeus, Apollo, Aphrodite and company did exist.  What if each of them told us to do different things. Then what? (A famous Greek play, the Oresteia, is devoted to just that question). We should probably rule out Lucifer, but why? Because Yahweh is more powerful than he is, and created him? Are we saying might makes right? 
The answer would seem to be that we should obey Yahweh and not Lucifer because Yahweh is good and Lucifer is not. But the divine command theory says that what makes an act good is that God commanded it. But if what we mean when we say "Yahweh is good" is that Yahweh does what Yahweh wants Yahweh to to do, this doesn't sound as if it amounts to anything. Lucifer, I take it, does what Lucifer wants Lucifer to do. It could indeed turn out that paying attention to Yahweh's commands is the best way to decide what actions are right. But it doesn't follow from that that God's commandments make something right. If God is good by nature God might know what is right and command what is right, but God doesn't make something right by commanding it. This is a problem for the divine command theory. 

Monday, July 08, 2019

Is relativism the pathway to tolerance?

Relativism is supposed to be the pathway to tolerance, yet it tolerates intolerance if the culture accepts it. In fact, one of the things that differentiates mainstream Western culture from other cultures around the world is the value we place on tolerance. From the attack on Valentine's Day in Indian culture, to the rigidity of Japanese business culture, to the one child policy in China, to the oppression of women in Saudi Arabia, to the tolerance for rape cultures throughout the world, for example in Korea, to the practice of female genital mutilation in parts of Africa, we see practices in foreign cultures that do not respect human rights and are not tolerant. If our multiculturalism pushes into relativism, though, we are forced to say that there is nothing really wrong with the intolerant practices. To stand up for tolerance, you have to believe in an objectively binding moral law, something that hangs together nicely with theism, but fits with atheism only if you work very hard to get it to fit, a la Erik Wielenberg.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

Relativism and Rape

A redated post.


I had a teacher at Arizona State who told me that in one culture rape is considered perfectly OK, so long as you do it at the right time. In the morning, it's forbidden. In the afternoon, it is frowned upon. At night, it is perfectly OK, since a woman who is away from the protection of her husband is asking for it. (He never said which campus fraternity he was referring to).

If cultural relativism is true, the rules of that culture, with respect to rape, are justified. There is no "court of appeal" that is over and above that culture and out culture that would permit us to say that their views on rape are wrong and ours are right. For us to suggest that they are "really" wrong in permitting rape is to elevate the rules of our culture to a kind of cosmic status they cannot have. It is to be intolerant.

Objectivity and provability

Before black swans were discovered in Western Australia, people believed that all swans were white. We had no proof that black swans existed. Nevertheless, the objective fact was, and is, that there were black swans in Western Australia. Objectivity is about what is real, not what we can prove. 
God, for example, might really exist, but have provided us with no proof of his existence sufficient to convince all reasonable persons. But his objective existence (or nonexistence) does not depend on it being provable either way. 

Chesterton beat me to it

I have been using the reductio ad absurdum "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are evolved equal, and that they were endowed by evolution with certain unalienable rights, that among these rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." 

It seems as if G. K. Chesterton beat me to it by a few decades. 

“The Declaration of Independence dogmatically bases all rights on the fact that God created all men equal; and it is right; for if they were not created equal, they were certainly evolved unequal. There is no basis for democracy except in a dogma about the divine origin of man.”

― G.K. Chesterton

https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/229497-the-declaration-of-independence-dogmatically-bases-all-rights-on-the

It comes from What I Saw in America.

Aw, shucks.

Homosexuality and celibacy

The Catholic Church teaches that there is nothing wrong with being a homosexual, but if you are homosexual, you ought to live a celibate life. But some within the Church don't really understand the church's teaching. What the Church rejects is the idea that sexual relationships are essential to human happiness and human identity. If one has to have a sexual relationship with someone you love in order to be who you are, then wouldn't it follow that Jesus and Paul were not who they truly were, since both lived celibate lives?

I realize that the Catholic Church, on this issue, is asking people of gay orientation to suppress a powerful human instinct, and instinct supported very strongly by our Valentine's Day culture.  Still, it would be a mistake to say that the Catholic Church's teaching oppose that person's identity. It may oppose how that person may want to express that identity, but does not oppose the identity itself. 

That said, sometimes the people who teach in Catholic schools don't get anything right when it comes to Catholic teaching. 

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

How religious belief can affect morality

There are various ways in which religion affects our moral conduct, that go beyond the specific teachings of a religion. Religious belief supports the idea of an inherent purpose to human existence, and the idea that in the end justice will be served. This is supported either by a belief in a final judgment or in a belief in some kind of law of karma, which in Eastern religion governs reincarnation. Some people believe in a law of karma that governs our earthly life, but that doesn't work perfectly.  The simple fact is, that in this world, people can commit murder, get away with it, and be happy about it.  On this matter, watch atheist filmmaker Woody Allen's movie Crimes and Misdemeanors. The belief in an inherent  purpose  and the belief in ultimate justice, either through karma or through a final judgment, provide energy for the moral enterprise of many persons. I'm not saying you can't be moral without them, but for a lot of people, they sure help. When we think about religion and morality, we think about specific teachings, but there is more to it that. 

Kamala Harris fires a blank

I fail to understand Harris's gains based on the debate. She fired a blank at Biden, and made it look like she hit him.I guess she hit him with a soundbite. It is one thing to say "That little girl was me, it sure helped me." It is another to argue for busing as public policy mandated by the Department of Education. That kind of federal control of schools is going to freak out the entire middle and help Trump. Biden doesn't have to deny that it could help in some instances. But busing as public policy has been abandoned in the public arena, and unless you can argue that it ought to be brought back, this is going to hurt her in the overall primary fight and certainly in the general election, especially among swing voters in states like, well, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

Does the law of noncontradiction apply to moral claim, such as the claim that adultery is wrong?

There are a couple of possibilities here. One is that physicalism is true. If physicalism is true, then all facts are physical facts, and the law of noncontradictions applies to physical facts. Claims about what is right and wrong cannot be reduced to physical questions, therefore, the law of noncontradiction does not  apply here. But what if  there are facts that are not physical facts? Mathematical facts, strictly speaking, are not physical facts, since they do not obtain at particular places or times, but rather obtain at all places and times. There are also logical facts, which also do not depend upon locality. And then, are there moral facts? Atheists disagree with  one another as to whether there can be moral facts. Atheist J. L. Mackie argued that there are no moral facts. But even without God, philosophers like Erik Wielenberg think that there are nonetheless moral facts. https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/2763.Erik_J_Wielenberg 
If there are moral facts then the law of noncontradiction applies to these. 
But then, suppose that religion is not just something people make up, but instead is true. In this case, physicalism would be false, because a divine reality exists which, at least we ordinarily define physics, physics cannot discover. In that case, there would be a real God, maybe a Christian, Jewish, or Muslim God which actually exists, in which case it is quite possible that facts about what is right or wrong is grounded in what God knows, or what God commands. Thus, God might know, and therefore command, that adultery is wrong, and even if you are the President of the United States, if you disagree with that, you are mistaken.