Thursday, March 30, 2006

Lippard on intertheoretic reductions

Jim Lippard wrote: I don't think you can reasonably question the coherence and adequacy of those intertheoretic reductions without learning the science involved. It's not clear to me whether or not you agree.

It seems to me that if one proposes reducing normative ethics to evolutionary biology, I can pretty well tell from the outset that such a project is doomed, and I can do so with a general, but not detailed knowledge of evolutionary biology. It seems to me that one can have arguments to the effect that a certain set of categories simply will not and can not reduce to another set. In particular, I consider all normative-to-descriptive reductions inherently suspect.

A lot of reductive analyses in the philosophy of mind wave a lot of science around which conceals a profound incoherence, sliding from one set of categories to another without making clear and adequate distinctions. Or so it seems to me. I don't think I should be intimidated by scientific gnositicism, the idea that I have to be one of the scientific initiates in order to understand the mysteries.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Vallicella on whether the laws of logic are empirical

This is a very old (as blog posts go) post from Bill Vallicella against the claim that the laws of logic are empirical generalizations. It seems to me that naturalism leads to the conclusion that the laws of logic are empirical generalizations, so if this argument works, it cuts against naturalism.

Colson on John Barrow

What the Christian peace groups were doing in Iraq

An interview with Ron Sider.

A further response to Jim Lippard

Naturalists and supernaturalists agree that we do engage in rational inferences. The supernaturalists think we do so using magical non-physical properties; many of them think that our minds are completely independent of our brains, though I think this is a position that is untenable in the face of empirical evidence from neuroscience (evidence which I have yet to see a substance dualist even attempt to address). In the face of arguments about the fact that computers are physical devices which engage in computation and inference, they respond that this is not real computation and inference, but only a derived computation and inference that is fully dependent upon human computation and inference.

I find the use of terms like "supernaturalists" and "magical" to be misleading terms. My argument, first and foremost, is an argument for a dualism of explanations, in which intentional states are permitted as basic explanations. We then can consider what kinds of world-views might allow this kind of explanatory dualism, and these include traditional theism, but also include such options of absolute idealism, the philosophy that Lewis adopted when he became persuaded of the argument from reason.

Lippard seems here to be implicitly using the inadequacy objection, the idea that whatever trouble we might have in accounting for something like intentionality, appealing to nonphysical explanations simply deepens the mystery and makes matters worse. But we have, intuitively a pretty clear understanding of our mental life. It is only when we try to connect it with the non-mental life of the material world that things get difficult. The following passage, from my essay "The Argument from Reason and the Humean Legacy," is germane here:

The Inadequacy Objection gratuitously assumes that matter is what is clearly understandable, and that “mind” is something mysterious, the very existence of which has to be explained in terms of un-mysterious matter. But is this an accurate picture? According to Galen Strawson,
This is the assumption that we have a pretty good understanding of the nature of matter—of matter and space—of the physical in general. It is only relative to this assumption that the existence of consciousness in a material world seems mystifying. For what exactly is puzzling about consciousness, once we put the assumption aside? Suppose you have and experience of redness, or pain, and consider it to be just as such. There doesn’t seem to be any room for anything that could be called failure to understand what it is.
On the other hand, matter is described by modern physics in the most mystifying terms imaginable. The philosopher of science Bas van Fraassen writes, “Do concepts of the soul…baffle you? They pale beside the unimaginable otherness of closed space-times, event horizons, EPR correlations, and bootstrap models.”


Naturalists, by contrast, think that our abilities to engage in rational inference and language have evolved, and that they are both dependent on natural causes and productive in generating additional natural causes of reasoning and action. They are far from perfect--we can identify systematic failures of reasoning that occur (e.g., examples of the sort in Kahneman & Tversky's classic Judgment Under Uncertainty). And our understanding of our own abilities is far from complete--but is growing rapidly.

Of course I never said that our rational faculties were perfect, nor did I say that they were completely independent of matter. Dualists like Taliaferro and Hasker, as well as C. Stephen Evans in a paper for Christian Scholar's Review, freely acknowledge the extensive role of the brain in cognition. In fact, I don't know any dualist that denies it.

http://www.csreview.org/XXXIV3/evans/

Scientific examination of our cognitive capabilities has been extremely productive, while the supernatural thesis has been moribund.

The scientific study of the brain requires only extensive correlations between mental states and brain states, a claim that both naturalists and "supernaturalists" can agree on.

William Hasker on the argument from neurophysiology

There was a discussion of the use of neurophysiology to disconfirm survival on this blog last June, (see link) and I got this response from Bill Hasker.

A general problem with Keith Augustine's line of thought is that it in effect presupposes that physicalists *do* have a good explanation for everything that goes on in the mind. At least, an "in-principle" good explanation; no one can reasonably demand, at this point, that all the details be filled in. But what is in question is precisely whether physicalism does, or can, generate such an explanation. Churchland, after all, was driven to his (hugely implausible) eliminative materialism by the conviction that existing reductionist programs were unsuccessful. And then there is Colin McGinn, who tell us in effect,"Of course, the mind is the brain, but all of us are constitutionally incapable of understanding how this is the case." Now, I readily admit that dualism, including emergent dualism, is a more complex theory than physicalism. So if physicalism really can get the job done, Ockham's Razor looks like slicing off dualism at the roots. But it won't do to simply assume the adequacy of physicalism without confronting the arguments against it. Among the more difficult challenges, I think, are the Argument from Reason, featured in Vic's book, and the unity-of-consciousness argument, which I've developed following Leibniz and Kant. (As I've noted, Stapp seems to have a fairly good grip on both of these arguments. He thinks quantum physics can overcome them, and that is something that needs to be further explored.)

Cheers, Bill

Monday, March 27, 2006

Some Responses to Lippard

Some responses to Lippard. His comments are in bold, mine are not.

The conclusion that rationality is *undermined* doesn't follow--at best the conclusion is that the connection between the physical causes and the rational inferences is at best a contingent one that is in need of explanation, which I think is a valid conclusion. But it's one that is in the process of being answered as we learn about how the brain and perceptual systems work, how language develops, and how the mind evolved.

I read Ramachandran's Brief Tour of Consciousness. Maybe the tour was too brief, but I did not see any real progress there toward the solution to these problems, nor did I see any real reognition of the fundamental philosophical difficulties involved. It seems to me that brain science can provide one of two things. One is that it can provide correlations between brain states and mental states. But sophisticated dualists like Hasker and Taliaferro never said that we should not expect to find these. The other thing that brain science might provide is intertheoretic reductions. But I question the coherence of these attempts. I would need expertise in brain science to know just what the correlations are, but that is all you get from the neurophysioloical "hard data." On the other hand, I believe that I can, as a philosopher, question the coherence and adequacy of the intertheoretic reductions that scientists may offer, and in doing so I am not guilty of "armchair science."

Some of my comments in response to Carrier, which originally appeared on Vallicella's blog and later on mine, are relevant here:

Carrier gives me two options for developing my argument. Either I prove conclusively that a naturalistic account of reasoning is impossible, or I conduct an exhaustive study of the finding of brain science and find that reasoning probably cannot be accounted for in terms of brain function. It seems to me that there is a third option available. I can show we are dealing with a conceptual chasm that cannot simply be overcome by straightforward problem-solving. An example would be the attempt to get an “ought” from an “is”. Moore argued that for any set of “is” statements concerning a situation, the question of whether this or that action ought to have been done is left open. To generate any confidence that you can get an “ought” from an "is," it simply won’t do to come up with one theory after another to show how you can get an "ought" from an "is." We need to be given some idea that these theories can surmount the conceptual problem Moore and others have posed.

Another way of putting my point is to say that reason presents a problem analogous to what David Chalmers called the hard problem of consciousness. When we consider seriously what reasoning is, when we reject all attempts at “bait and switch” in which reasoning is re-described in a way that makes it scientifically tractable but also unrecognizable in the final analysis as reasoning, we find something that looks for all the world to be radically resistant to physicalistic analysis.

So I maintain that there is a logico-conceptual chasm between the various elements of reason, and the material world as understood mechanistically. Bridging the chasm isn’t going to simply be a matter of exploring the territory on one side of the chasm.



If the fact that the brain operates in accordance with physical law undermined rationality, then the fact that computers operate in accordance with physical law would undermine their ability to perform logical inferences and computations.

Are computers aware of mathematical relationships? In fact I think I didn't think Lippard really argued that thinks that computers like the one I am typing on are real examples of rationality in the sense that I have been discussing. I thought that, rather, he thought there were possible computers that could possess rationality in the relevant sense. Perhaps Jim can clarify.

The real question is *how* brains came to be able to engage in rational inferences in virtue of the way that they physically operate, not *whether* they do. Gilson (and Victor) argue that they could only have this ability by being divinely designed to do so--a thesis that doesn't seem to be particularly fruitful for scientific exploration.

Is value for the scientific enterprise a criterion of truth? It no doubt slows down the scientific enterprise that it is wrong to inflict pain on people to find out how the body responds to pain, but Lippard will have to agree that it is nonetheless true.

The Lippard Blog: Minds, brains, and rationality

This is response from Jim Lippard to the argument from reason.

The Lippard Blog: Minds, brains, and rationality

Legal experts Dover analyze decision

LEGAL EXPERTS ANALYZE THE IMPACT OF THE DOVER INTELLIGENT DESIGN TRIAL DECISION
IN THE NEW BOOK, “TRAIPSING INTO EVOLUTION”

Traipsing Into Evolution is the first published critique of federal Judge John
E. Jones's decision in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case, the foremeost trial to
attempt to address the constitutionality of teaching intelligent design. In this
concise yet comprehensive response, Discovery Institute scholars and attorneys
expose how Judge Jones's Kitzmiller decision was based upon faulty reasoning,
non-existent evidence, and an elementary misunderstanding of intelligent design
theory.

Despite Jones's protestations to the contrary, his attempts to use the federal
bench to declare evolution a sacred cow--unquestionable in schools and
fundamentally compatible with all "true" religion--are exposed by these critical
authors as a textbook case of good-old-American judicial activism.

“The Dover trial was hardly the final word in the debate over evolution,” says
attorney Casey Luskin, a co-author of the new book Traipsing Into Evolution:
Intelligent Design and the Kitzmiller vs. Dover Decision(DI Press 2006). “Mark
Twain once allegedly refuted his own obituary proclaiming that ‘the report of my
death was an exaggeration.' Traipsing Into Evolution disproves similar
exaggerated reports from Darwinists about intelligent design in the wake of the
Kitzmiller v. Dover decision.”

The authors conclude that the Judge’s ruling will have “teachers seeking to
‘teach the controversy’ over Darwinian evolution in today’s climate will likely
be met with false warnings that it is unconstitutional to say anything negative
about Darwinian evolution.”

“The impact of this ruling is that even students who ask critical questions
about Darwinism, or about intelligent design theory will scare administrators’
about whether that puts the school in constitutional jeopardy,” said Luskin.
“There’s already been a negative chilling effect on open inquiry in places such
as Ohio and South Carolina. Judge Jones’ message is clear: give Darwin only
praise, or else face the wrath of the judiciary.”

The book is priced at $14.95 and is available at bookstores throughout the
country and online at Amazon.com. It also can be ordered directly by calling
800-643-4102. Review copies are available by contacting the publisher at
cscinfo@discovery.org.


“The mainstream science establishment and the courts tell us, in censorious
tones that sometimes sound a bit desperate, that intelligent design is just a
lot of fundamentalist cant. It's not,” said Steven D. Smith, Warren
Distinguished Professor of Law, University of San Diego and author of "Law's
Quandary" (Harvard University Press, 2004). “We've heard the Darwinist story,
and we owe it to ourselves to hear the other side. Traipsing Into Evolution is
that other side.”

The book was written by David K. DeWolf, professor of law at Gonzaga University,
Dr. John G. West associate professor and chair of the political science
department at Seattle Pacific University, Casey Luskin, attorney and program
officer for public policy and legal affairs at Discovery Institute, and Dr.
Jonathan Witt a senior fellow and writer in residence at Discovery Institute.

Traipsing Into Evolution is part of a series published by Discovery Institute
Press. Previous books include Are We Spiritual Machines?: Ray Kurzweil vs. The
Critics of Strong A.I. by Jay W.Richards et. al., Getting the Facts Straight: A
Viewer’s Guide to PBS’s Evolution by the Discovery Institute, and Why Is a Fly
Not a Horse? by Italian geneticist Giuseppe Sermonti, published in 2005.

Chapters in Traipsing Into Evolution look at: Kitzmiller’s Partisan History of
Intelligent Design; Ktzmiller’s Unpersuasive Case Against the Scientific Status
of Intelligent Design; Kitzmiller’s Failure to Treat Religion in a Neutral
Manner; Kitzmiller’s Limited Value as Precedent; and The Need for Academic
Freedom.

The book also includes a lengthy response to the ruling from Dr. Michael Behe,
entitled “Whether ID is Science: Michael Behe’s Response to Kitzmiller v.
Dover.” Dr. Behe was the lead expert witness for the defense at the trial.

For more information go to: www.discovery.org/csc/traipsing

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Reposting the link to Lewis's voice

I am reposting the link to Lewis's voice, in case you missed it.

A paper on Judge Jones and Methodological Naturalism

A University of Kentucky philosopher of science challenges the reasoning in the dover decision.

IS INTELLIGENT DESIGN SCIENCE? DISSECTING THE DOVER DECISION



Abstract

In the case of Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District, et al., Judge Jones

ruled that a pro-intelligent design disclaimer cannot be read to public school

students. In his decision, he gave demarcation criteria for what counts as science,

ruling that intelligent design fails these criteria. I argue that these criteria are

flawed, with most of my focus on the criterion of methodological naturalism. The

way to refute intelligent design is not by declaring it unscientific, but by showing

that the empirical evidence for design is not there.



http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/archive/00002583/01/Methodological_Naturalism_2.pdf

Friday, March 24, 2006

Keeping it germane

I would just like to point out that for the most part the discussion that developed in this discussion is not exactly germane to the point I was presenting. I was attempting to show how it is possible for Lewis to advocate the AFR while at the same time explaining how Bulverism (what in logic textbooks is called the ad hominem circumstantial argument) is a fallacy to be avoided. I was not there presenting a full-dress defense of the AFR.

If someone wants to address the actual issue, perhaps we can start a thread on this post.

An inquiry from Pat Parks

Victor: You say in footnote #21 of your article "The Lewis-Anscombe Controversy" that a necessary condition for rationality to exist is that both the ground and consequent and cause and effect relations "must coincide." No doubt, we substance dualist assume this. In Miracles Lewis seems to make the same point when he discuses how it is that we reach a conclusion (via rational inference): "It looks therefore, as if, for a train of thought to have any value, these two systems of connection must apply to the same series of mental acts." And of course, the problem for the naturalist is that these two systems are "wholly distinct." For he has the problem of not being able to explain the logical connections (ground and consequent) that obtain in such mental events. O.K., this seems simple enough. Yet, here's where I'm still a bit perplexed: Why does Lewis in "Bulverism" say that "Either we can know nothing, or thought has reasons only, and no causes."(emphasis mine) I understand the context to be about the justification of our beliefs with respect to rational causes, or rational inference. But, why does he say "thought has reasons only, and no causes"??? Is it simply because he is using "cause" here in the physical sense?

Victor, is it correct that the G/C and C/E distinction is nothingless than the distinction between two kinds of "explanations" for how beliefs are produced? And thus, this is why the AFR is at root an argument for "explanatory dualism." If I'm on target then I can now see why Kim's principle of "Explanatory Exclusion" is germane to all of this.

Please correct any flaws in my thinking on these connections.

Always Thankful,
Pat Parks

Pat: Bulverism is dated 1944. Nudge nudge, say no more. But on if you look up the paragraph, you find that he distinguishes between 1) ordinary causes and 2) a special kind of cause called a reason.

Victor

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Tom Gilson on the mind

This is a discussion on Tom Gilson's Thinking Christian blog.

The Narnia movie is #2

At the box office for 2005.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

A clarificatory question about the AFR

Dear Dr. Reppert,

I am a grad student at Texas Tech and very interested in Lewis's AFR and your versions of it. I am writing a paper and hoping to get others in the department interested as well.

Would you take a brief moment to help me with an interpretation difficulty?

I interpret Lewis as wanting to take rational inference out of the causal nexus of the "interlocked system" of Nature because such a system is governed by blind, mechanistic laws and therefore beliefs caused in this way are unable to underwrite rational inference (as we normally understand it). Thus, for Lewis a rationally inferred belief is never caused in the normal (mechanistic) sense of the word. Rather, a rationally inferred belief comes about in a subject by the logical relation that a subject grasps. That is, subjects form beliefs in light of the reasons they have for those beliefs. A belief is rationally inferred only if it is “caused” in this unique sense of the word cause (that is not really a causal relation?)

From reading your work, however, it seems that you think Lewis only meant that rationally inferred beliefs must have nonphysical causes. (Where cause is not the issue but the type of cause.) This is how you set up your AFR from mental causation, right? A rationally inferred belief must be caused by a mental event qua mental. And of course, non-reductive materialists cannot achieve this (running the normal Kim arguments.)

But your argument seems to be at odds with Lewis's argument if Lewis really wants to remove rationaly inference from the causal order. Where have I gone wrong?

I hope I have been brief but clear.

Sincerely,

Timothy Linehan


Timothy: Remember once again that while Lewis has one argument, I have drawn strands out of Lewis's ideas to generate six arguments, and there can be more as well. If caused means produced, providing necessary of sufficient conditions for its existence, then rational inference requires mental causation and not the lack of causation. In one essay Lewis refers to reasons as special kinds of causes. However, these causes are not mechanistic, as physicalists are bound to say that they are. If an avalanche falls down a mountain the physical causes will neither favor hitting my head nor missing my head. The rocks will go where gravtational and other forces require that they go, and if my head is in the way, then it will be hit, and if it isn't in the way it will not. What anything means what what anyone wants will have nothing to do with what happens.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

I won a contest

I won the Shameless Plug contest on Never Enough Tea. You can, too, if you are a blogger.

Monday, March 13, 2006

An interview with Richard Purtill

This is an interview with Richard Purtill, author of several books on Lewis and Tolkien.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Book 3 Chapter 11 Lewis on Faith

This is the first of two chapters on faith. This corresponds to the two conceptions of faith used by Christians.

One concept is that faith is simply believing the truths of Christianity. But how can believing certain truths be virtuous?

“Obviously, I used to say, a sane man accepts or rejects any statement, not because he wants to, but because the evidence seems to him good or bad. If he were mistaken about the goodness of badness of the evidence that would not mean he was a bad man, but only that he was not every clever. And if he thought the evidence bad but tried to force himself to believe in spite of it, that would be merely stupid.”

Well I still take that view.”

However, he says, he had been assuming that once someone believes that something is true he will go on believing that it is true until some reason to think it false comes up. But the mind is not ruled entirely by reason. When Lewis goes under the knife, even though he put his faith in the surgeon to put me under all the way before he starts cutting, he panics. (Though some patients actually do feel the pain when they are being operated on; the anaesthesia is not as foolproof as we once thought it was). The battle is between faith and reason on the one hand, and the imagination and the emotions on the other.

“I am not asking anyone to believe in Christianity if his best reasoning tells him that the weight of the evidence is against it. That is not the point at which faith comes in.”

If a man’s reason decides the evidence for Christianity is good, the emotions will carry out a blitz, whenever he received bad news, or wants a woman, or feels pleased with himself, anytime it might be convenient to think that Christianity is not true.

“I am not talking about moments at which any new reasons against Christianity come up. These have to be faced and that is a different matter.” I am talking about where a mere mood rises up against it.

Faith is that art of hold on to things which your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. Unless you teach your moods where they get off, you can never be either a sound Christian or a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and for, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather or the sate of its digestion. Consequently one must train the habit of faith.”

This is done through daily prayers, readings and churchgoing. “We have to be continually reminded of what we believe. Neither this belief nor any other will automatically remain alive in the mind. It must be fed. And, as a matter of fact, if you examined a hundred people who lost their faith in Christianity, I wonder how many of them would turn out to have been reasoned out of it by honest argument. Do not most people simply drift away?”

The second sense of faith is, I suppose trusting God. (For some reason, he doesn’t really define the higher sense of faith that he is talking about. But he says to try to practice Christian virtue for one week, or maybe six, and you will see that you really can’t do it.

What you give to God and do for God God gives you the power to do in the first place. When humans do something for God it is like going to one’s father to ask him for the money to buy him a birthday present.

Another misguided attack on Lewis from Austin Cline

Here is another misguided attack on Lewis from Austin Cline. His comments are in bold, mine are not.

Christian apologist C.S. Lewis had a curious relationship with faith. On the one hand, he couldn’t very well deny the importance of faith because it has been a core component of Christianity since the very beginning — both Jesus and Paul praise it as vital. At the same time, however, his overall goal was to provide a rational apologetic that justified acceptance of Christianity on intellectual grounds. This would make faith superfluous.

Only if faith is a matter of believing what is contrary to the evidence. This is not what we means by faith. "I am not asking anyone to believe in Christianity if his best reasoning tells him the weight of the evidence is against it. That is not where faith comes in. Even after you give a lot of evidence in support of Christainity, there is still prenty of room for faith, since the evidence is less than an immediate sensory demonstration.

To get around this, Lewis attempted to distinguish between two different senses of the word “faith” to correspond with two different senses of the word “God.” The first sense of the word “God” is the philosophical God, a moral lawgiver or cosmic designer which philosophy can plausible prove the existence of. Acceptance of the existence of this sort of god Lewis called Faith-A. Lewis recognized, however, that this philosophical God could not automatically be identified with the Christian God.

Wrong. Faith-A is the intellectual assent to Christian claims, whether it is the existence of God or the resurrection of Christ. Lewis does give arguments for his Christian beliefs as well as his theistic beliefs.

The religious belief which Lewis designated Faith-B is no mere intellectual assent; instead, it’s a belief in God — a trust in God that represents a religious relationship between the person and the divine.

It is a preparedness to act in accordance with one's beliefs. it involves a state of the will, and not merely a state of one's beliefs.

Faith-A is a prerequisite for Faith-B, but it does not necessarily and always lead to Faith-B. C.S. Lewis’ apologetics were designed to demonstrate that reasonableness of Faith-A (and, in fact, that it is more reasonable than atheism), but his ultimate goal was for people to accept Faith-B as well. Although he did not believe that he could provide philosophical arguments leading to Faith-B, he hoped that be removing intellectual barriers to belief in the existence of any sort of god, he might pave the way to believe in the Christian god. Thus the goal of his books was to provide the basis for an intellectual conversion to one sort of theism which, he hoped, would lead to an emotional conversion to a different sort of theism later on.

Calling Faith-B emotional is another mistake. Feelings are bound to come and go.

Consider the following case: someone is tempted to break their wedding vows and commit adultery. Merely believing that adultery is wrong won't prevent the adultery. And feelings are what is pushing the person toward the adulterous affair. What is required is an act of the will to act in accordance with what one believes and not in accordance with what one feels. That is the virtue of faith. Book 3, chapter 11 of Mere Christianity makes that so clear that I can't see how anyone could miss it.

This isn’t a surprising state of affairs — C.S. Lewis often acted as though the only real reason atheists had for rejecting Christianity was emotional rather than intellectual. If this were the case, then it makes perfect sense to believe that making Christianity less emotionally distant would be an appropriate apologetical tactic.

See my previous comment.

Lewis’ ideas about faith create problems for his apologetics as well, however. He presents his philosophical arguments with the request that skeptics give them a fair shake and only accept them if they believe that the weight of evidence is in favor of them. In other words, he tells nonbelievers that they should not believe Christianity if they think that the weight of evidence is against it, even if some evidence appears to be in favor of it.

He has an entirely different message for believers, though: to them, he argues that they must hold fast to their Christian beliefs regardless of the evidence which comes out against Christianity. They must be “obstinate” in their beliefs and to remain loyal, regardless of changing “moods” (he doesn’t seem to have thought that serious doubts would have occurred to a Christian for any reason other than shifting moods). It’s praiseworthy for the Christian to be “obstinate,” but he criticizes atheists whom he accuses of avoiding facts that contradict their beliefs.

This difference, which skeptics will immediately reject as a form of special pleading, can be traced directly to the different senses of faith which Lewis relies upon. Christians’ Faith-B is a form of loyalty, trust, allegiance, and commitment which is not reducible to evidence. It goes beyond the immediate evidence and logic; Christian belief and Christian doctrine are not related to the scientific principle of proportioning belief to evidence.


The difference is that Christians, in addition to the rational evidence that supported their beliefs, have a difference sort of evidence, a type of evidence based on their own experience of God's presence as Christians. And complete obstinacy in the light of just any evidence is not required of the believer. Also, the Christian has a commitment to a Person, and not merely a commitment to a proposition. Should a husband or wife proportion belief to the evidence in considering possible infidelity? Or should a spouse put a higher-than-normal burden of proof on an infidelity claim? This is not special pleading, this is built into the idea that a person can know God by acquaintance as a believer.

The Faith-A which Lewis promote to skeptics, though, isn’t a form of commitment — it’s just an intellectual assent, like how someone might intellectually assent to the existence of Paris in France. This is the sort of thing for which Lewis accepted that one should proportion one’s belief to the evidence.

That is the most rational discourse can do. Arguing for Faith-B is like giving someone arguments for being a faithful wife or husband. If one has made a wedding vow, the arguments have already been given. The will to uphold them is what is now needed.

Unfortunately, Lewis never provided any basis for moving from Faith-A to Faith-B, from belief in the existence of a Power behind Moral Law to faith in the Christian God. He also doesn’t provide any good reason why the commitment of Faith-B shouldn’t be subject to basic standards of evidence; by endorsing “obstinate” faith in the face of contrary evidence, he effectively endorses religious fanaticism.

If one comes to believe that there is a God, the Christ is the Second Person, that Christ rose from the dead, that the Holy Spirit is at work in the soul of the believer, then it is rational to act as if that is so. It would not be rational to sleep in on Sunday and save ten percent. However, an act of the will, not the intellect, is required.

Lewis offers reasons why the situation of the believer is different from the situation of the nonbeliever, in that the believer think himself to have direct personal experience of the Christian God, and that there is a personal relationship involved, which is not present in the case of the nonbeliever. Cline ignores the reasons Lewis offers, and accuses Lewis of advocating fanaticism.

I can imagine possible evidence which might lead me to think it rational to think that Christianity had been shown to be false. But as a believer I consider these situations to be counterfactual. That doesn't mean that I won't ever feel like it isn't true, or that reasons to be skeptical might not arise, and I have already subjected many of my beliefs as a Christian to scrutiny and have changed my mind about various things over time.

Lewis does say, in Book 3 Chapter 11 of Mere Christianity:

“I am not talking about moments at which any new reasons against Christianity come up. These have to be faced and that is a different matter.” (p. 125 in my edition).

I don't like to think of it as "Imagine any situation that might arise, and realize that it is your job, regardless of the evidence that might arise, to hold onto your faith." I don't think God wants to pit my faith against my reason, having created my reason in the first place. It is more like "there may be temptations to faith that come along the way, but when they do, I trust that God will always be there to provide a way to rationally affirm my faith." If Cline wants to call that fanaticism, let him.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

J. P Holding's apologetics quiz for skeptics

Since quite a few skeptics read this blog, I'm sure this will interest you. HT: John DePoe

Monday, March 06, 2006

Zogby Ohio Poll on Evolution

Apparently most likely voters in Ohio support the teaching of anti-evolution views. But is this how we decide what is true?

Friday, March 03, 2006

Is the New York Times protecting a stereotype?

From Rob Crowther.

Did the New York Times suppress the results of its own investigation into Darwin's scientific critics in order to promote a stereotype?

New questions are being raised about the accuracy of the New York Times' article on scientific critics of neo-Darwinism last week, spurred by an amazing admission by Times' reporter Ken Chang that only a small minority of the scientists he interviewed actually fit his story's stereotyped description of Darwin's critics. While Chang's story conveys the clear impression that scientists who support Discovery's Dissent from Darwin statement are motivated by religion rather than science, Chang has now admitted in an interview that 75% or more of the scientists he interviewed did not fit this description. In other words, Chang and his editors selectively reported the results of their own investigation to convey the exact opposite of what they found. It turns out I was right to warn before the article's publication that when it comes to the evolution issue, the Times' motto should be "all the news that fits"!

Click here to ontinue reading "Did the New York Times suppress the results of its own investigation into Darwin's scientific critics in order to promote a stereotype?" 

The full article is online at Evolution News & Views at http://www.evolutionnews.org/2006/03/did_the_new_york_times_suppres.html#more.

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Robert L. Crowther

Director of Communications

Center for Science & Culture

(206) 292-0401 x107

Read Evolution News & Views, our blog on media coverage of the debate over evolution at www.evolutionnews.org

Intelligent Design: The Future, a daily blog about the science behind intelligent design at: www.idthefuture.com

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Vallicella contra Dennett

Bill Vallicella has been reading Dennett's Breaking the Spell, and has some comments here.