Saturday, June 28, 2008

Is Bush the AntiChrist?

Well, I think we aren't supposed to be speculating about when the end will come. "No one knows the day or the hour."

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Why the Iraqis don't love us

This sketch, from Monty Python's Life of Brian, might help American leaders think clearly about how people in a foreign country would react if we went into that country, removed a bad leader, and set up an occupation. It doesn't matter how much good you do, it's their country and they want to rule it themselves.

Reg: They bled us white, the bastards. They've taken everything we had. And not just from us! From our fathers, and from our father's fathers.
Loretta: And from our father's father's fathers.
Reg: Yeah.
Loretta: And from our father's father's father's fathers.
Reg: Yeah, all right Stan, don't delay with the point. And what have they ever given us in return?
Revolutionary I: The aqueduct?
Reg: What?
Revolutionary I: The aqueduct.Reg: Oh. Yeah, yeah, they did give us that, ah, that's true, yeah.
Revolutionary II: And the sanitation.
Loretta: Oh, yeah, the sanitation, Reg. Remember what the city used to be like.
Reg: Yeah, all right, I'll grant you the aqueduct and sanitation, the two things the Romans have done.
Matthias: And the roads.
Reg: Oh, yeah, obviously the roads. I mean the roads go without saying, don't they? But apart from the sanitation, the aqueduct, and the roads...
Revolutionary III: Irrigation.
Revolutionary I: Medicine.
Revolutionary IV: Education.
Reg: Yeah, yeah, all right, fair enough.
Revolutionary V: And the wine.
All revolutionaries except Reg: Oh, yeah! Right!
Rogers: Yeah! Yeah, that's something we'd really miss Reg, if the Romans left. Huh.
Revolutionary VI: Public bathes.
Loretta: And it's safe to walk in the streets at night now, Reg.
Rogers: Yeah, they certainly know how to keep order. Let's face it; they're the only ones who could in a place like this.
All revolutionaries except
Reg: Hahaha...all right...
Reg: All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh-water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?
Revolutionary I: Brought peace?
Reg: Oh, peace! Shut up!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Does James Dobson Speak for You?

Did Dobson correctly represent Obama? People on this site think he did not.

Apply the golden rule to the treatment of prisoners?

That's what these guys want to do. How naive of them.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Frankfurt and the case for open theism

The interesting thing that I have been noticing abot Frankfurt cases is that they at least attempt to violate PAP without positing causal determination. You can't do otherwise, but there's no causal chain going from what keeps you from doing otherwise and your actual action. It's the lack of a causal chain going from the controller to the action that makes them good intuition pumps for people who would not be inclined to accept compatibilism in the first place.

The tricky issue is whether non-causal guarantees have the same sort of responsibility-denying effect that causal determinism does in the minds of incompatibilists. And this brings up the whole foreknowledge and freedom debate. Level 1 incompatibilism says that an act can't be both free and causally determined. But besides Frankfurt counterexamples, there is another type of fact that doesn't cause, but might seem to eliminate alternate possiblity. That is divine foreknowledge. A level 2 incompatibilist will say that if there is a determinant but it is not a causal determinant, it's still eliminates responsibility. This drives that Hasker-style argument for open theism. Hasker's libertarian opponents think that causal determination would remove responsibility, but since God's foreknowledge doesn't cause our actions, it doesn't affect our responsibility for them. The "bludgeon" approach to Frankfurt examples plays, therefore, into the hands of the open theists.

Where's Alan Rhoda?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Depoe critiques Sobel on infinitesimal probabilities and miracles

This takes me way back over 20 years ago when I worked on Humean arguments and Bayes' theorem with Patrick Maher at University of Illinois at Urbana. As I recall I put something about Sobel in a footnote of my first published paper, "Miracles and the Case for Theism" (International Journal of Philosophy of Religion, Feb. 1989).

Does Slavery exist today?

Afraid so. Shouldn't this be one of the great moral issues of our day? Or is it just abortion and gay marriage?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Attacking Frankfurt Counterexamples with a Bludgeon

On Frankfurt counterexamples, I think I'd like to present Clayton's counterexample to one of the anti-compatibilist arguments I presented. In this case, I would like to ask "Why shouldn't I just apply PAP and just render a verdict of "not responsible" in all Frankfurt cases? Frankfurt cases go like this:

1) In case A, there were no alternate possibilities.
2) In case a, S was morally responsible.
3) Therefore, PAP is false.

While you could just as easily argue.

1) In case A there were no alternative possibilities.
2) PAP is true.
3) Therefore, S is not morally responsible.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Do all Christians accept divine command theory?

The textbook mentions, and criticizes divine command morality on p. 57. It says "The Divine Command Theory states that moraltiy is based not on the consequences of actions or rules, not upon self-interest or other-interestedness, but rather upon something "higher" than these mere mundne events of the imperfect human or natural worlds. It is based upon the existence of an all-good being or beings who are supernatural and who have communicated to human beings what they should and should not do in a moral sesne. In order to be moral, then, human beings must follow the commands and prohibitions of such a being or beings to the letter without concerning themselves with consequences, self-interest, or anything else."
Now obviously no one is going to follow this unless they believe in a supernatural being like God. But suppose you did. God by definition is supposed to be omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good. Given that definition, and given the fact that this being has given a commandment, is it possible that you could say "Yes yes I know. God has commanded X, but I ought to do not-X instead."
Does this mean that all religious believers who think that God has given commandments are, to some extent, committed to the Divine Command Theory?

Does freedom evolve?

In spite of admiration for Dan Dennett's analysis of freedom in his book Freedom Evolves, Michael Shermer draws the correct bottom line from a consistent philosophical naturalism. We think we're free because we are ignorant of what causally determines our actions. HT: Ed Babinski.

The concept of tolerance

Something I have touched upon in a discussion of gay rights and gay civil unions in a previous post, but which I think applies generally. What does it mean to be tolerant? Or, rather, what should it mean. It seems to me that tolerance as a virtue is a matter of how one conducts one's social relations. In many situations we deal with person whose beliefs we disagree with and whose conduct we disapprove of. In those cases, it is very often virtuous for us not to allow the disagreements and disapprovals to interfere with the social relationships we have with those persons. Even though we differ with what they do and disagree with what they believe, we set those differences aside in how we treat them. Tolerance is not refusing to believe that anyone else's beliefs are false (that would result in a self-refuting relativism) and it is not a matter of refusing to believe that some else's lifestyle is morally wrong. It is a matter of not treating others as second-class citizens because they have what we consider to be false beliefs or engage in morally wrong lifestyles.

If I don't disapprove of your conduct or disagree with your beliefs, I cannot be tolerant for the simple reason that there is nothing to tolerate. Hence moral relativism and epistemic relativism are not doctrines that are conducive to tolerance. They are doctrines that make tolerance logically impossible.

Roger Overton at the A-team Blog Interviews Michael Ward

The author of Planet Narnia.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Divine Command Theory

From the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

an attack on the idea of natural rights

Here's an argument against Jefferson's claim that we have inalienable rights.
Natural Rights Don't Exist

The Argument from Inalienable Rights

This is a redated post from a couple of years ago.

In the series on inalienable human rights, I have been working on the possibility of a moral argument for theism based on the idea that we have inalienable human rights. The argument is a spinoff of a more typical type of moral argument, found in people like C. S. Lewis and C. Stephen Evans, which goes as follows:

1. (Probably) unless there is a God, there cannot be objectively binding moral obligations.
2. But there are objectively binding moral obligations.
3. Therefore (probably) there is a God.

Now, why do I introduce the idea of inalienable rights? Because I think some people who might be inclined to deny premise 2 in the argument might be strongly inclined to accept the idea that we have inalienable rights. And because the Declaration of Independence says that we have these rights in virtue of our having been created equal.

Now I think I can use successfully argue that someone who rejects 2 must reject Jefferson's statement that we have inalienable rights. What Jefferson is claiming is that is that if the King deprives a citizen of life, liberty, or the opportunity to pursue happiness, if the laws of the State permit the king to do this, and the king gets away with it and goes unpunished, the king nevertheless has acted wrongly. It implies that there is a "natural law" over and above the laws of the state or the decrees of the king.

Perhaps the first time we see this kind of a claim made is in story of David and Bathsheba. David impregnates Bathsheba, arranges her husband Uriah's death in battle, and then admits Bathsheba to his harem. The prophet Nathan gets David to admit that he violated Uriah's rights and therefore deserved to die, based on the claim that the law of God stands above the acts of the king. In polytheistic countries, no such Divine law would have been recognized. The king would have arranged a neck operation for Nathan's foolish effrontery, and that would have been the end of it. What sets David apart from other kings of the time is not the fact that he took the woman he wanted, but that he recognized a law above his own decrees.

Do natural inalienable rights exist if atheism is true? To borrow J. L. Mackie's terminology, this seems to be a queer kind of fact to exist in a naturalistic universe. Typically naturalists claim that what is true about the world can be discovered by some variant of the natural sciences. Physics looks at the really basic stuff, chemistry looks at chemically bonded physical stuff, biology looks at living systems of matter, psychology looks at living systems when they have mental states, sociology looks at systems of creatures with mental states as the relate to one another socially. It's hard to see how anything discoverable by any of these sciences entails the claim that we have inalienable human rights.

So it seems to be that a theistic argument could be forumated as follows;

1. (Probably) unless there is a God, there cannot be inalienable human rights.
2. There are inalienable human rights.
Therefore 3. (Probably) there is a God.

But of course the argument can go the other way. Someone could use the following argument:
1. same as above
2. There is not God.
Therefore 3. Probably there are no inalienable human rights. See the Wallace article I reference in the previous post.

We hold these truths to be self-evident

I am redating this post as well.

This is one of two posts I did last February, redating so as to come up on the blog now.

Perhaps some of the best-known words from our American heritage are the words from the Preamble of the Declaration of Independence: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain Inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

But, if you are an atheist, there is no Creator, so we couldn't be created equal. Advanced thinker that he was for his time, TJ seems to have imbibed some creationist nonsense. Hence to reflect what an atheist really believes, it would have to be rewritten as follows:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men have evolved equally, and that they are endowed by Evolution with certain Inalienable Rights, that among these are Life , Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

But thus altered, isn't this statement howlingly false? Evolution doesn't make people equal, it doesn't endow anyone with inalienable rights, and among these is certainly not life, or liberty, or the pursuit of happiness.

I'm not going to argue that atheists are bad citizens. But my question is what sense an atheist can make of these statements in the Preamble. Doesn't it conflict, profoundly, with what an atheist believes?

We Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident Part II

we hold these truths II post Redating this post once again.

And here is the other post. Please make note of the referenced paper by Steve Lovell on this one. I made the link to Lovell's site under "link". The other link to him on this page is broken. Since Euthyphro keeps coming up here, Lovell answer is once again required reading.

I took the passage from the Declaration of Independence because I am convinced that it captures some powerful moral intuitions that all of us have (at least we Americans and others who live in democratic countries). I realize even those who have those moral intuitions fail sometimes to fully act out their commitment to those intuitions; witness Jefferson himself with respect to slavery. (I have read that he went before Congress and denied his affair with Sally Hemmings. Somehow whenever I try to picture that, I keep coming up with a wagging index finger and an Arkansas accent. But I digress.) However, these intuitions seem to imply at least deism, and it looks as if the deism required, while it might (as it did for Jefferson) exclude miraculous intervention of the type we find in the Resurrection, it does require God to have enough providential control over the world to "endow" us with inalienable rights. The "Deism" of the founding fathers, from what I have read of them allows for providential governance of human affairs, even if it does not allow for miracles.

The fact that, as the Un-Apologetic Atheist reminds us, he was attacking divine right monarchy, doesn't change the ontological commitments of the actual statement. Fat George would no doubt have actually replied that he ruled by divine right; he could easily have replied, if that had been his position, that it's a dog eat dog world and he's top dog. As an old chess friend of mine used to say, "Might does not make right, but might does what it wants to."

It would take a considerable amount of evidence to show that Jefferson did not intend the references to a Creator to be taken literally. Rakshasas perhaps has such evidence, or someone else does. I haven't seen it. I don't know how the "lexical force" of Jefferson's statements are going to work if the ontolgoical commitments of the assertion are incorrect.

UAA's rewrite of Jefferson's argument therefore must be a revision of what he said; it suggests that we have rights just in virtue of the fact that we exist. You now have to supplant the reasons given in Jefferson's statement for why we have these rights with some other reasons.

Careful examination of the concept of a right, for starters, implies the existence of an objectively binding moral obligation. Think about it. When the police say "You have the right to remain silent," it implies that the police are under an absolutely binding moral obligation not to beat a confession out of the suspect. Othewise, the right does not exist. But objective moral values are denied by many modern atheists. Consider Michael Ruse, for example:

The position of the modern evolutionist . . . is that humans have an awareness of morality . . . because such an awareness is of biological worth. Morality is a biological adaptation no less than are hands and feet and teeth . . . . Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, ethics is illusory. I appreciate that when somebody says 'Love they neighbor as thyself,' they think they are referring above and beyond themselves . . . . Nevertheless, . . . such reference is truly without foundation. Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction, . . . and any deeper meaning is illusory . . . .

Michael Ruse, "Evolutionary Theory and Christian Ethics," in The Darwinian Paradigm (London: Routledge, 1989), pp. 262, 268-9.

Now if you are an ethical subjectivist, it seems to me that you have to say that Jefferson was just wrong when he said we have inalienable rights. So at least some (but surely not all) atheists would have to say this, people like Bertrand Russell (see previous post), J. L. Mackie, and Ruse. But if that is what an atheist believes, then he should be honest enough to say so. As I discussed in my previous post on moral objectivity, people are sometimes inclined to be subjectivists in considering highly controversial, vexed issues, not realizing that this implies that the claim "We have inalienable rights" comes out false.

Now, in response to Chris, I never said that only theists have a claim to morality. What I did say was that apparently in this statement Jefferson explains the existence of our inalienable rights in terms of our having been created in such a way as to possess them. Of course agnostics and atheists have had plenty to say about ethics, but it simply doesn't follow that what they had to say is consistent with atheism. Atheists can be ethical; they often have and live by moral values, they write about morality, but nevertheless it might be still true that if atheism of the naturalistic variety is true, there cannot be objective moral values.

Second, I am not especially persuaded by Euthypro-style arguments--see the Lovell paper you linked by the title.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

A New IVP book on Lewis and philosophy

Includes my essay "Defending the Dangerous Idea," based on my anti-Carrier presentation from OxBridge 2005.

This is now out and looks really good.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Lycan's four objections to substance dualism

Josh Hickok, on Pretentious Apologetics, responds to four objections to substance dualism by William Lycan. Interestingly enough, Lycan himself seems to have moved away from a strong commitments to the objections to substance dualism, now claiming that they are overrated. However, Keith Parsons gave those arguments against dualism in our Philosophia Christi exchange in 2003, and I responded to those objections as follows: "Some Supernatural Reasons Why My Critics are Wrong", Philosophia Christi vol. 5. no. 1 (2003).

Lycan argues that Cartesian minds do not fit with out otherwise physical and scientific picture of the world and that they are not needed to explain any known phenomenon. But this argument seems to assume that my argument to the contrary is incorrect; if my argument is successful then we need something inherently rational to explain the existence of reason in the world. So simply to assert that we do not need souls to explain any known phenomenon is to beg the question against my argument, since my argument maintains that something nonmechanistic must explain our capacity to reason. And it is not the case that we know nothing about such a soul. We know, as a consequence of the argument, both that it is governed by reason and that reason reason can be a basic explanation for what it does.

Second, Lycan says that since human beings evolved over aeons by purely physical processes of random mutation and natural selection, it is anomalous to suppose that Mother Nature created Cartesian minds in addition to cells and physical organs. Again, this assumes a strong version of evolutionary imperialism that is certainly open to dispute. If my argument is successful, then the human mind could not have arisen through a purely physical process of mutation and natural selection, for, if it had, we would not have been able to discover that we arose through a purely physical process of mutation and natural selection. On the other hand, if theism is true, then it is hardly beyond the powers of Omnipotence to create souls or to give matter the capacity to generate souls.

Third, Lycan says that if minds are nonspatial, how can they interact with physical objects in space? First, I never said that souls were not in space, so I do not see why I have to take this objection seriously (unlike Descartes, who explicitly denied the spatiality of souls). Second, I have never heard anyone argue that since God is not in space, God could not create the world (a causal interaction if there ever was one). So if this is a good argument against dualism, the atheists have been missing out on a good argument for atheism. But it certainly seems logically possible for something that is not in space to interact with something that is in space; the claim that it is impossible is all too often made as a bald assertion, without argumentative support.

The violation of conservation laws does not strike me as a serious problem either, because the laws of nature tell you what happens when nothing outside the system interferes with it. If we are thinking of the soul as outside the physical order, and conservation laws tell us what will happen within the physical order, then it does not violate those laws if something from the outside that order causes something to occur that would not have happened otherwise. The argument works only if physicalism is true, and thus begs the question.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

No one has ever been killed in the name of atheism

A redated post.

Is this true? Millions have been killed in the name of atheistic ideologies. But some maintain that this is not the same as being killed in the name of atheism. Why not? Consider this quote from Richard Wurmbrand's Tortured for Christ:

The cruelty of atheism is hard to believe when man has no faith in the reward of good or the punishment of evil. There is no reason to be human. There is no restraint from the depths of evil which is in man. The Communist torturers often said, 'There is no God, no hereafter, no punishment for evil. We can do what we wish.' I have heard one torturer even say, 'I thank God, in whom I don't believe, that I have lived to this hour when I can express all the evil in my heart.' He expressed it in unbelievable brutality and torture inflected on prisoners.8

This is the evolutionary manifesto

This is the Evolutionary Manifesto. I smell the naturalistic fallacy (illicit shift from "is" to "ought)."

Friday, June 06, 2008