Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Is atheism the most rational option

Not according to my former teacher Hugo Meynell, who mentions the argument from reason as a primary reason for thinking so.

26 comments:

James Vandenberg said...

Look at the photo in that article.

1.) I don't understand the bus slogan claim that if there is "probably no God," then we ought to stop worrying. If God is not there, then were all slaves to the abyss. Our lives are absurd, because our own sense of conscious agency is just an accidental byproduct of material forces. Instead of allaying worry, this should cause a horrible existential crisis.

2.) The fact that Dawkins and Sherine are not in an existential crisis gives me to wonder how they really think. Are they really confident about themselves because they lack a religious crutch? Or do they show the hubris of a rebel who rejects the Creator that they know, deep inside, will judge them? You can't just write them off as shallow.

Finney said...

That is one good looking atheist.

Anonymous said...

Not in the least, for that reason and more.

Which is why one of the single most oft-repeated rallying cries of the New Atheists is 'We're not making any positive claims! Just criticisms!' If they had to argue for atheism, rather than against [usually butchered caricatures of] God, their arguments wouldn't only come across as bad, but as downright laughable.

Preston said...

The problem of evil isn't laughable. And I'm not saying its unsolvable, but it ought to be taken more seriously than something like the ontological argument.

Gordon Knight said...

problem of evil is a real problem, the ontological argument is a real interesting argument.

Why should god excite worry? I think of the worry Luther had that he was damned. but appart from the odious doctine of eternal damnation and the even more odious doctrine of predestination, God's existence gives us reason to rejoice, not worry.

Aletheist said...

I only recently discovered Meynell and (through him) Lonergan, and so far I have found their ideas quite fascinating. Lonergan spent a full chapter of his most important work, Insight: A Study of Human Understanding (1957), on the intelligibility argument for the existence of God, and Meynell wrote an entire book about it called The Intelligible Universe: A Cosmological Argument (1982). I highly recommend the latter; it is not terribly long (153 pages), and Meynell is (to me, at least) more readable, in general, than Lonergan. Redirecting Philosophy (1998) is also very good, defending Lonergan's account of knowledge against what various other major philosophers have argued over the last century or so.

Ilíon said...

VR: "Is atheism the most rational option?"

So coy! Come new, you surely already know that not only is atheism not the most rational option but that atheism is the anti-rational option.


Also, Mr Meynell appears to hold an incoherent, or at least an inconsistent, view of this 'science' thingie. On the one hand -- and perhaps I'm misunderstanding him in this -- he seems to (rightly) recognize that 'science' is not, and cannot be, the arbiter of truth. On the other hand, he seems to be arguing the we should trust the deliverances of 'science' to be truth.

The truth is, modern science isn't directly concerned with truth: it doesn't start with truth and it doesn't seek to uncover currently unknown truths. Modern science is all about control: controlling nature to our benefit ... and, for some of its practitioners, controlling other human beings.

The advancement of modern science depends upon honesty amongst its practitioners -- but honesty is not the same thing as truth.

The deliverances of modern science may be true -- but we can't use 'science' to determine which statements of 'science' are, in fact, true and which are not.

Ilíon said...

James Vandenberg "The fact that Dawkins and Sherine are not in an existential crisis gives me to wonder how they really think."

I don't know about this Sherine person, but do I know that Mr Dawkins doesn't actually believe what he preaches and works hard to convince others to believe. Moreover, he *knows* and *admits* that he doesn't believe what he wants others to believe.

Consider this: Let's all stop beating Basil's car ... read the whole thing (it isn't long), *understand* the (sloppy and fallacious) argument he's making ... then direct your attention to the conclusion of the piece: "... My dangerous idea is that we shall eventually grow out of all this [i.e. believing in concepts such as 'moral choice' and 'responsibility' and 'blame'] and even learn to laugh at it, just as we laugh at Basil Fawlty when he beats his car. But I fear it is unlikely that I shall ever reach that level of enlightenment."

*Grasp* this! Internalize what Mr Dawkins has said! The man *knows* and *admits* that he himself doesn't even believe the foolishness he's trying to convince others to believe ... and to believe on nothing more substantial than the "authority" of his prestige.

Ilíon said...

GK: "... but appart from the odious doctine of eternal damnation ..."

Silly man!

The doctrine of eternal damnation is a logical necessity.

In respect to specifically Christian doctrine, a doctrine of eternal damnation is a necessary corollary of the doctrine of eternal salvation -- the doctrine we care about implies the other we'd prefer to not think about. What are we being saved from? From damnation! Why do we even need to be saved? Because we are damned, else.

In respect to some "mere theism," a doctrine of eternal damnation is also logically necessary: Justice (and morality) requires both judgment and punishment of the guilty. If God does not judge and punish the injustices we inflict upon one another, then he is himself unjust and immoral. But, there is no such thing as a "just right" punishment which somehow falls short of total punishment ... Therefore, by a "mere theism," we must all be totally punished for our sins: death, aka 'eternal damnation,' is the only fitting and just punishment available to a God of "mere theism."

Fortunately for us, the real God is so much greater than the God of "mere theism" -- and so vastly greater than the Little God you "open theists" assert. The real God is not only Justice, but also Mercy.


GK: "... and the even more odious doctrine of predestination, ..."

Even this is "odious" only because they (the Calvinists) and you (along with most other anti-Calvinists) *refuse* even to attempt to understand what you're pretending to be arguing about.

Ilíon said...

James Vandenberg: "... You can't just write them off as shallow."

Why not?

It seems to me that two things are true here:

1) A person who refuses to recognize and correct the incoherencies in his world-view is indeed "shallow." Especially when he's evangelizing for that flawed world-view.

2) If we will not explain/understand the New Atheist in terms of their clear shallowness, then the only other rational explanation for their behavior is that they are intellectually dishonest. And "intellectual dishonesty" is just a ten dollar phrase meaning "worse than a mere liar."

Robert said...

Hello Ilion,

Ilion I went over and looked at the closing paragraph of Dawkins comments to which you make reference. Here it is:

“Why is it that we humans find it almost impossible to accept such conclusions? Why do we vent such visceral hatred on child murderers, or on thuggish vandals, when we should simply regard them as faulty units that need fixing or replacing? Presumably because mental constructs like blame and responsibility, indeed evil and good, are built into our brains by millennia of Darwinian evolution. Assigning blame and responsibility is an aspect of the useful fiction of intentional agents that we construct in our brains as a means of short-cutting a truer analysis of what is going on in the world in which we have to live. My dangerous idea is that we shall eventually grow out of all this and even learn to laugh at it, just as we laugh at Basil Fawlty when he beats his car. But I fear it is unlikely that I shall ever reach that level of enlightenment.”

Is Dawkins then a “faulty unit” that needs replacing since he is out of line with God’s design plan?

And these “mental constructs” like blame and responsibility that we just need to get past. If someone steals Dawkins car or assaults his wife, do you think he might feel a bit of anger and want to lay some responsibility and blame on the perpetrators?

He thinks that we will just grow out of such juvenile and unenlightened concepts some day, when we are more **enlightened**.

Kinda reminds me of an experience from my college days. A bit of background information so that the story makes more sense (i.e., I was in a philosophy class at the time. Having played sports and lifted weights for many years at that time I was 6 ft. 4 inches tall and weighed about 235 lbs. I was in really good shape at that time, could bench press hundreds of pounds, etc.) Anyway there was this little guy, about 5 ft. 7 inches spouting off this nonsense about everything being relative and that we all have different moral standards and it’s all OK. He was going on about moral relativism in a conversation with me and a couple other people after class, so to share a
“teaching moment” with him,

I forcefully grabbed him by the collar and lifted him up off the ground. He started getting real scared real fast and said with a terrified voice: what are you doing? I replied: well everything is relative right? And I like pounding on little guys like you just for the fun of it!” You should have seen his face, turned white as a sheet. Of course I was just messing with his mind, I wasn’t really going to hurt him, but strangely I **never** heard him espouse his relativism in that philosophy class again. :-)

My point is simple, the moral relativist can make these pompous and ridiculous claims about moral relativity or make claims like Dawkins and yet WHEN THEY ARE DIRECLTY CONFRONTED WITH SOMETHING THEY DON’T WANT, or they or their loved ones directly face evil actions, suddenly the moral relativism goes out the window, and they suddenly start believing in **actual morality**, that some things are wrong and some things are right.

I wonder what would happen if I grabbed Dawkins by the collar and lifted him up off the ground in a hallway after a lecture: would he espouse his enlightened view then? :-) What do you think Ilion? :-)

Robert

Victor Reppert said...

This is what I wrote when I linked to the Basil's car piece last year: Ilion linked to this little piece of Dawkiana, in which Our Hero maintains that holding a person morally responsible for their actions is absurd as Basil Fawlty beating his car for not starting. No namby-pamby soft determinism for Dawkins! I guess Dennett's Elbow Room didn't convince him. (Oh well, it didn't convince me either). Of course, that means that the Spanish Inquisition, the Salem Witch Trials (duck-scales from which are, I'm told, preserved in the Salem City Museum), the Great Wars of Religion, and the 9/11 attacks are really no one's fault. It's no one's fault if you don't believe in evolution, or if you invade Iraq without sufficient reason. In fact, it isn't your fault if you have Dawkins burned at the stake. This is sounding better all the time.
http://dangerousidea.blogspot.com/2008/06/lets-stop-beating-basils-car-richard.html

Ilíon said...

VR: "This is what I wrote when I linked to the Basil's car piece last year ..."

I'd considered also linking to your post, but finally decided to just duplicate what I'd written which sparked it.

Ilíon said...

Of course, Robert, I agree. The people who espouse moral relativism *always* assert moral absolutes when "necessary."

Similarly, self-proclaimed atheists rarely, if ever, *really* believe that atheism is indeed the truth about the nature of reality. (This is why I generally write 'atheist' with scare-quotes)

Darrin said...

How does the Argument from Reason differ from TAG?

Ilíon said...

Darrin,
Why don't you show us that you understand the content of the AfR?

Andrew T. said...

As I note on my blog, if Maynell is giving an accurate description of the AfR here, then we need not take the AfR seriously, since no atheist contends that reason is "an absolute," as Maynell would have it.

From reading Victor's stuff, I know at least his arguments are more rigorous than this. But this article just straw-mans atheism.

Victor Reppert said...

Hugo himself wrote an entire book defending a version of the argument from reason, so I think he was summarizing his conclusions rather than defending them in this space.

Darrin said...

>>Ilion

From what I've seen, there are many different versions, but the crux of the matter is that they share with TAG the presumption that the Laws of Logic must be rooted in the mind of an eternal, transcendent being.

I may be wrong on this count, though - it's the first time I've come across this (other than Plantinga's naturalistic argument against evolution version) so please correct me if I am in error. :)

Ilíon said...

Darrin: "From what I've seen, there are many different versions, but the crux of the matter is that they share with TAG the presumption that the Laws of Logic must be rooted in the mind of an eternal, transcendent being."

Darrin,
Based on the content of your first post, I was confident that that would be your understanding of the AfR; that's why I asked you to explain the gist of it.


Darrin: "I may be wrong on this count, though - it's the first time I've come across this (other than Plantinga's naturalistic argument against evolution version) so please correct me if I am in error. :)"

As it turns out, you have it exactly backwards -- a well-formed Argument From Reason does not at all "share with TAG the presumption that the Laws of Logic must be rooted in the mind of an eternal, transcendent being." Rather, a proper AfR *concludes* "that the Laws of Logic [are and necessarily] must be rooted in the mind of an eternal, transcendent being."

If it helps, think of the AfR as a Pre-TAG: the AfR shows that the main/critical premise of the TAG is correct; that is, the AfR shows that that critical premise of the TAG doesn't have to be merely pre-supposed, but can be established by reason. Though, at the same time, since the AfR itself establishes that God exists, the TAG becomes rather redundant.

Ilíon said...

Andrew T: "... if Maynell is giving an accurate description of the AfR here, then we need not take the AfR seriously, since no atheist contends that reason is "an absolute," as Maynell would have it."

Poor Andrew T:

1) not only can you apparently not read-with-comprehension (*) -- for, after all, Mr Maynell said nothing of the sort in the piece,

2) but also, I'm thinking that you haven't yet figured out that one interesting use of the AfR is to force you pretend-atheists to abandon the pretense that you value reason and rationality.


Andrew T: "... But this article just straw-mans atheism."

Asserts the man who has no idea (*) what he's talking about.


(*) Of course, I can't entirely rule out the possibility that Andrew T is simply intellectually dishonest.

---------------
VR: "Hugo himself wrote an entire book defending a version of the argument from reason, so I think he was summarizing his conclusions rather than defending them in this space."

For whatever cause, Andrew T has misrepresented Mr Maynell ... and you, apparently, are too "polite" to be bothered to correct the misrepresentation.

And later, an innocent comes across this exchange and because you appear to agree with the misrepresentation he goes away with that misunderstanding. Thus, you fail your duty right now to Mr Maynell and your future duty to (relatively unsophisticated) readers of you blog.

As I keep harping, you really need to figure out which you primarily value:
1) a committment to truth; or
2) receiving approving words from the haters-of-Christ.

Andrew T. said...

Thank Victor's nonexistent God that Ilion has moved on to greener pastures. In the interest of completeness, I'll point out that Maynell's words are obvious for all to see:

Science, as Lewis said, depends on the assumption that reason is an absolute; furthermore, that matter in the remotest galaxies conforms to thought-laws excogitated by scientists in their laboratories here on Earth.

Since science most assuredly does not depend on any such assumption, I don't really think Maynell is helping his cause much here.

Victor Reppert said...

I don't think that we can count on Ilion to not post here. I was not implying that that is what I expect, or what I want.

Ilíon said...

VR: "I don't think that we can count on Ilion to not post here. I was not implying that that is what I expect, or what I want."

I don't understand this comment. I mean, I get the reference to the amusing post by the foolish person; but I have no idea what you mean by "I was not implying that that is what I expect, or what I want."

Ilíon said...

Oh. I get it.

Ilíon said...

VR: "I don't think that we can count on Ilion to not post here. I was not implying that that is what I expect, or what I want."

Had I seen your post welcoming me to the blogosphere before I saw (in my email inbox) this response to Andrew T, I'd not have understood it (as he seems to have done) as welcoming me to leave your blog -- I'm certain that you're man enough to tell me directly if you didn't want me here. This is you blog, and I'm a guest.