Sunday, January 31, 2010

Jason Pratt on Horrid Red Things

Jason Pratt, of the Christian CADRE, explains Lewis's important point about literal and metaphorical language in the chapter of Miracles entitled Horrid Red Things. One of my favorite C. S. Lewis points.

Lewis uses the example of a little girl who thinks that poison, in any given substance, is "horrid red things". She really believes that if she separated the poison out of 'poisonous' solids and liquids, the poison would really look like horrid red things. But an adult who attempted to refute her claim that lye is poisonous by correcting her false belief about what 'poison' looks like, would still be in for a nasty shock if he drank it! Indeed, with a little investigation he might have discovered that she did not believe lye poisonous because it contained horrid red things (which she knows she cannot see in the lye), but because her mother (who may have sufficiently accurate reasons for saying so) has told her the lye is poisonous and she trusts her mother. She thinks the red things are in the lye, not because she can see them, but because she already believes the lye is poisonous; therefore it must (as far as she is concerned) have those horrid red things in it somewhere. Her imagery turns out to be, upon fair examination, ultimately of little importance to the issue at hand: whether lye really is poisonous. If she was corrected about the nature of poison, it would probably not (nor should not) affect her belief about the toxicity of lye. She would know more, but she would not necessarily be refuted in her core belief.


Is the Oscillating Universe Model Dead in the Water?

From this Wikipedia entry, it looks like it is still alive and kicking.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Religiosity amongst scientists

My interest in the link in the previous post had to do with the fact that the numbers that were cited in the apologetics website were very different from the ones provided in this piece by Sam Harris, where he says 93% of people in the NAS were unbelievers. I did note the apologetical bias of that link, and was hoping to get a little more detail on the full story.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Are scientists mostly atheists?

This site, which is a Christian apologetics site, says no.

Response to a student on the use of the term "faith"

 Whenever someone brings up the word faith in this class, I am going to ask them what they mean by it. Some people mean by faith simply confidence, some mean confidence without immediate perceptual evidence (faith as opposed to "sight"), some people mean faith without proof, by which I take it they mean, I take it, evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, and some see faith as belief absent any rational support, and perhaps even holding on to a belief in the teeth of a mountain of counter-evidence.

If you say that atheists like Freud and Dawkins are really religious because they have faith of some kind, the whole issue of how you define faith hits you in the nose.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Leaving the (quiverfull) fold and losing her faith

HT: Ed Babinski. This quiverfull movement strikes me as a cult.

The impossible voyage of Noah's Ark

Some problems for literalism about the Flood story.

The Chesteronian basis of Lewis's argument from reason

Jim Slagle, at Agent Intellect, wrote his master's thesis on the Argument from Reason for the University of Louvain, and in the process convinced me to change my mind about one aspect of the argument. At first I thought that Anscombe had shown that Lewis was misusing the term "irrational", in the first edition of Miracles, in  speaking of physical causes, but in fact Lewis was using a different, but perfectly acceptable sense of the word "irrational." Lewis in fact distinguishes the two senses of the word "irrational in The Abolition of Man."  Lewis did adopt the irrational-non-rational distinction when he revised the third chapter of Miracles, but, strictly speaking, he need not have done so.

In this post, he presents what he considers to be Chesterton's version of the AFR.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Here is Lewis's The Abolition of Man

Perhaps this will shed light on my discussion of "fact and opinion." I suspect intellectual rat poison is being given to our children when they are taught these little "fact and opinion" exercises starting as early as the fourth grade.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven

This motivation seems to underlie Christopher Hitchens' anti-religious crusade. Of course, if his arguments were good, his motivation wouldn't matter.

Adam Barkman's new book on Lewis and Philosophy

This is the opening chapter of a 600 page book on philosophy and Lewis that focuses largely on his historical development. Often in reading Lewis I have noticed a difference between the philosophical climate of his own time and our time. This book is very helpful to understanding that difference.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Are Christians more Likely to Go to Prison?

This has been contended, but, according to Metacrock, not without considerable fudging of the data.

A critique of Mere Christianity

By someone who sounds like a moral nihilist.

A favorite C. S. Lewis quote of mine

""The moment you have a self at all, there is a possibility of putting yourself first - wanting to be the centre - wanting to be God, in fact. That was the sin of Satan: and that was the sin he taught the human race. Some people think the fall of man had something to do with sex, but that is a mistake...what Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they 'could be like Gods' - could set up on their own as if they had created themselves - be their own masters - invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come...the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.""


— C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity)

An economist argues for the irrationality of religious belief

His argument has overtones very similar to Loftus's Outsider Test for Faith. Religious believers, he charges:

· accept their religious beliefs with little or no evidence
· accept religious beliefs that are contrary to the evidence
· accept religious beliefs without studying competing views

· are certain about religious beliefs that are dubious at best, and

· accept their religious beliefs not because they are intellectually compelling, but because they are emotionally comforting.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Who made God?

I think the classical answer to this is to say that there are two types of things that exist: things that might or might not exist, and things that have to exist. As the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy puts it,




It is commonly accepted that there are two sorts of existent entities: those that exist but could have failed to exist, and those that could not have failed to exist. Entities of the first sort are contingent beings; entities of the second sort are necessary beings.



According to the Christian tradition, God is supposed to be omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good. His existence is not contingent on any outside forces. If it were contingent, then those forces would have power over Him, and he would not be omnipotent. Hence, it is supposed that God's existence is necessary and not contingent. If something has to exist, then it is part of the very definition of God's nature that he was not created and could not be created.



Consider cosmological arguments for the existence of God for a moment. One type of cosmological argument for God is called a kalam cosmological argument. A kalam cosmological argument follows this format.



1. Whatever begins to exist, must have a cause of its existence.



2. The universe began to exist.



3. Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence.



In other words, according to the principle used in premise 1, before we know whether we need to ask for a cause of something, we need to discover whether or not, ex hypothesi, it began to exist. If it didn't have a temporal beginning, then a cause may not be needed. This argument is based on the claim that, either through mathematical arguments, or as the upshot of discoveries in astrophysics, we have good reason to suppose that the universe had a temporal beginning (the Big Bang maybe?)



Another cosmological argument for God, found in Aquinas's Third Way, goes like this:



1. Whatever exists contingently must have a cause of its existence.



2. The (physical) universe, and everything in it, exists contingently. It might or might not exist.



Therefore, the universe must have a cause that is independent of the physical universe.



Now, I am not here contending that these are good arguments. However, they are ways of arguing for the existence of God that have been popular amongst philosophers. What I am saying is that these arguments for the existence of God present us with a conception of God that does not need a cause. In fact, if something were to cause God to exist, the God would not be a necessary being, and hence, wouldn't be God.



For this reason, I don't think that the question "Who made God" is the stunning refutation of theism that some people think that it is.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A refutation of the Jesus Myth hypothesis

Jesus and the Burden of Proof

An essay by William Lane Craig.A redated post.

Infidels ponder the question of why there are intelligent theists

On this thread here. It's an important question. What sense do we make of the fact that people who apparently have not only intelligence but intellectual integrity believe the opposite of what we do.

Of course, you can avoid this problem by just denying one of the above.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Were the early "fundamentalists" creationists? Babinski on the history of evangelical responses to evolution

We are inclined to identify fundamentalism with opposition to evolution in all its guises, but as this article by Ed Babinski suggests, evangelicals and even the authors of "The Fundamentals" have not always been anti-evolutionists.

Even when the twelve-volume paperback series, The Fundamentals, was published between 1910 and 1915 (an interdenominational work that launched this century's "fundamentalist" movement), it contained cautiously pro-evolution stances of conservative Christian theologians like George Frederick Wright, James Orr, and R. A. Torrey. It was only in the eighth collection of Fundamentals papers that this cautious advocacy of evolution was matched by two decisively and aggressively anti-Darwin statements, one by someone who remained anonymous and another by the relatively unknown Henry Beach, both of whom lacked the theological and scientific standing of the senior evangelicals already mentioned.

Did the Devil Make the Astronomers Do It?

One source of difficulty with YEC (Young earth creationism) is the fact that, even without evolution, there is a problem with astronomy. I haven't heard anyone arguing that we should teach alternative doctrines of astronomy in public schools, but if "the heavens and the earth" were created in six literal days, and the age of not only the earth but the universe can be counted up through the genealogies, you get not just an earth but a universe that is approximately 6000 years old. What this means is that anything that is further out in space than 6000 years should not be visible, because the light from those stars would have to travel more than 6000 light years to get here, which would break the intergalactic speed limit. Nevertheless, we do see stars millions of light years away, according to astronomy.

I am linking to a site from Answers in Creation, which raises this issue for YEC.




Is modern astronomy an attack on the God of the Bible? Why are conservative Christians upset by evolution, but never upset by simple astronomy? Why do Christians sometimes think the Devil made Darwin do it, but they never worry about whether the Devil made the astronomers do it. Yet astronomy strikes me as being as big a problem for lead-footed literalism as evolution.

Warfield on Evolution

Apparently this Calvinist theologian and defender of inerrancy rejected what would now be regarded as young earth creationism.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

In the beginning God separated the heavens and the earth?

A Dutch scholar thinks this is the true translation of Genesis 1:1, and that it will devastate traditional believers. This blogger says hold your horses.

Some exegetical concerns about young earth creationism

The flying spaghetti monster



Even though I'm not a Pastafarian, and I don't buy
 the points made by appealing to it, I still think this picture is cool.

The Argument from Truth: Gordon Clark style

A redated post.

In the late Ronald Nash's Life's Ultimate Questions, he presents an argument from truth for the existence of God which he claims to derive from Augustine but was put into a numbered-premise format by Gordon Clark.

1. Truth exists.
2. Truth is immutable (unchangeable).
3. Truth is eternal.
4. Truth is mental (pertaining to mind or minds).
5. Truth is superior to the human mind.
So 6. Truth is God.

Note that this collection of premises can be formulated into a valid argument (using the modus ponens pattern) as follows:

1. If 1-5 is true, then God exists.
2. 1-5 is true.
So 3. God exists.

This seems to be a different argument from truth from the argument from truth that I developed in CSLDI. Is this a legitimate way of defending theism?

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.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A guide for new philosophy students

This is helpful.

The inverted spectrum

From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. An interesting problem.

A Wikipedia List of American Philosophers

It is interesting to see who is, and is not, on this list. I'm not on it, Bill Hasker (!!!) isn't, but some other interesting people are.

A 1992 paper of mine on eliminativism

This is what I published in 1992 on eliminative materialism. I don't know who of you can actually access the article, but I thought I would link to it anyway. It also contains a detailed analysis of the question-begging fallacy.

The First Chapter of my Book

In response to the Malaysian student, who said she read the beginning of the paper, "Taking C. S. Lewis Seriously," the entire paper can be found at the link, which is the first chapter of my book C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea.

History repeats itself

I had hoped that the fact that New Orleans Saints had failed to come with their A game in five straight games (before their three losses they had two near-losses to non-playoff teams, one of whom was the Washington Redskins), that the Cardinals would be able to knock them off. I wonder if once New Orleans was assured of home field advantage throughout the playoffs, they put a lot of their playbook under lock and key for the playoffs. In any event, the Cardinals' A-game was MIA in the Superdome.

However, history does not side with teams who win close, high-scoring playoff games in the previous round. I am old enough to have been a San Diego Chargers fan in the late 70s and early 80s, (the Cardinals had yet to come to Arizona) and witnessed the nerve-wracking Charger victory over the Miami Dolphins. However, the Chargers' season came to a screeching halt in the Freezer Bowl in Cincinnati the following week, losing 27-7 to the Bengals. I link to an account of that game on the title.

Congratulations to the Who Dat Nation. At this time the Vikings lead the Cowboys, which suggests to me that Brett Favre and company are going to have to rehearse the silent count for the NFC championship game, because they are going into the loudest stadium in the NFL.

Does the Cosmological Argument commit the Fallacy of Composition?

Bertrand Russell thought so.

R: I can illustrate what seems to me your fallacy. Every man who exists has a mother, and it seems to me your argument is that therefore the human race must have a mother, but obviously the human race hasn't a mother -- that's a different logical sphere.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The best argument for atheism is...

Pat Robertson.

You were thnking maybe the argument from evil. 

41 arguments for God

Aquinas was a piker. A redated post.

A quote from Dorothy Sayers

"In the world it is called Tolerance, but in hell it is called Despair, the sin that believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and remains alive because there is nothing for which it will die."




---Dorothy Sayers

Thursday, January 14, 2010

An outline on faith and reason

Faith and Reason


Should Religion be Rational?

Hume’s “fideism”

In his famous essay on miracles, after presented a famous argument against rational belief in the miraculous, wrote:



"... the Christian Religion not only was at first attended with miracles, but even at this day cannot be believed by any reasonable person without one. Mere reason is insufficient to convince us its veracity: And whoever is moved by Faith to assent to it, is conscious of a continued miracle in his own person, which subverts all the principles of his understanding, and gives him a determination to believe what is most contrary to custom and experience.“

In other words, you real Christians have nothing to worry about with my argument. You believe on faith, not on reason anyway, so no big deal. It’s just phony Christians who pretend that their religious beliefs are rational.

Hume was certainly not a Christian, but he maybe said this to keep Christians from getting too mad at him.

Paul, Tertullian, Pascal

Paul: “See that no one makes a prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit.” Col. 2:8

Tertullian: What has Athens (the home of philosophy) to do with Jerusalem (the place where Christianity was founded)? Implied answer: nothing.

Pascal: “The heart has its reasons which reason does not know.”

Jimmy Swaggart: Man can’t use his mind to know the truth. If he uses his mind, he just comes up with something stupid like the theory of evolution.

C. S. Lewis on Rational Religion

He wants a child’s heart but a grown-up’s head. . . . The fact that you are giving money to a charity does not mean that you need not try to find out whether that charity is a fraud or not. . . . It is, of course, quite true that God will not love you any less, or have less use for you, if you happen to have been born with a second-rate brain. He has room for people with little sense, but He wants every one to use what sense they have. . . . God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than of any other slackers. If you are thinking of becoming a Christian, I warn you, you are embarking on something which is going to take the whole of you, brains and all. (Mere Christianity pp. 77-78).

Lewis of Faith

I am not asking anyone to accept 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...Now Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. . . . That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods “where they get off,” you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion. Consequently one must train the habit of Faith. (Mere Christianity, p. 140).

Three Views on Faith and Reason

View I: Strong Rationalism:

View II: Fideism

View III: Critical Rationalism



Strong Rationalism

Definition: In order for a religious view to be properly and rationally accepted it must be possible to prove that the position is true.

Definition of “prove” in this context means “show that a belief is true in a way that should be convincing to every reasonable person.”

W. K. Clifford: It is wrong, always and everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything for insufficient evidence.

http://www.anthonyflood.com/ethicsofbelief.htm



Why such a high standard?

Our beliefs have moral consequences. If a shipowner succumbs to wishful thinking and allows a ship to sail that isn’t seaworthy, the ship goes down and many people die.

If you don’t have time to submit your beliefs to scrutiny, you don’t have time to believe.

God and the Burden of Proof

One way of posing this question is trying to determine of one side or the other in the debate about religion has the burden of proof.

Suppose we can’t figure out, one way or another, whether or not God exists. What belief should we adopt? Should we have faith and become believers, should we just stay agnostics, or should we believe that God does not exist. Many people have said that the burden of proof lies with the person who holds the affirmative position, in this case, the belief that God exists. In the absence of proof one way or the other, the only rational position is atheism, the claim that God does not exist.

McInerney and Parsons on the Burden of Proof

This is McInerney’s essay


And this is Parsons’ reply




Does Theism Pass the Strong Rationalist’s test?

Clifford, pretty clearly, thought it did not. Neither did Bertrand Russell, who, when asked what he would say to God if God were to ask him why he did not believe, said “ I would tell God “Not enough evidence, God, not enough evidence.”

John Locke (1632-1704) and Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274) thought that theism passes the test. As does contemporary philosopher Richard Swinburne.

Difficulties for strong rationalism

The Nature of Faith. Doesn’t faith involve some element of risk, a “stepping out beyond” what one is initially comfortable with?

Are there any arguments in support of any religious world-view that satisfy this requirement?



Not Everyone Is Convinced

That isn’t automatically a problem. Perhaps the evidence is out there, but some people are blinded by wishful thinking, or by the love of sin, and culpably fail to recognize the truth.

We would expect a gradual move toward consensus with respect to arguments. What we find is that as discussion proceeds on these arguments, there is a greater tendency to admit that these arguments need not persuade everyone.



Concerning Worldviews

It might be argued that religious world-views are based on pure faith, but a world-view based on science, sometimes known as scientific naturalism (the world-view preferred by most atheists) stands on firm rational foundation.

“But science as a total worldview—the idea that science can tell us everything there is to know about what reality consists of, enjoys no such overwhelming support. This worldview, (often termed scientific naturalism) is just one theory amongst others and is no more capable of being “proved to all reasonable people” than are religious belief systems. To claim that the strong support enjoyed by, say, the periodic table of the elements transfers to scientific naturalism as a worldview is highly confused if not deliberately misleading.





So can we select a world-view based on Strong Rationalist Criteria

The textbook authors think this will not be possible.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Arizona Cardinals 51, Green Bay Packers 45

An epic battle. Next opponents: the New Orleans Saints.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Relativism and the possibility of tolerance

Tolerance has to do with how we treat people who either behave in ways we don't approve of, or believe things we disagree with. If there are no disapprovals, and no disagreements, tolerance is impossible. Therefore relativism does not promote tolerance, it makes tolerance logically impossible. If relativism is true, there's nothing to tolerate.

Does String Theory Support Belief in Life After Death?

Dinesh D'Souza thinks so. I'm a tad skeptical myself.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

A response to Mike on the Argument from Desire

I am wondering what your response is to the Bayesian calculation that I gave would be.

H1) Humans are constructed by God is such a way that they can be fulfilled only in relationship to God.

H2) It is not the case that humans are constructed by God in such a way that they can be fulfilled only in relationship to God. This can be true if atheism is true, or if God doesn't care,

D= the existence of "heavenly" desires

Now, notice I don't need the claim that these desires couldn't arise through evolution. In fact, as I did the calcuations, it's 70% likely that these desire would arise through evolution, and the calculation still works!

Now doesn't it seem to you that D is more likely given H1 than H2?

Reply to Beversluis on the Argument from Desire

There are three central arguments for the existence of God that Beversluis considers: the argument from desire, the argument from morality, and the argument from reason. The argument from desire has been formulated by Peter Kreeft as follows:
1) Every natural, innate desire in us corresponds to some real object that can satisfy that desire.

2) But there exists in us a desire which nothing in time, nothing on earth, no creature can satisfy.

3) Therefore there must exist something more than time, earth and creatures, which can satisfy this desire.

4) This something is what people call "God" and "life with God forever."

Beversluis makes four points in response to this line of argument. First, are we really talking about a well-defined desire? When it comes to our ordinary desires, we know what they are desires for. According to an analysis of “X desires that Y” X must desire Y under a description. That is, X must have some description of Y in mind. So can it be described as a desire for God at all, indeed can it be described as a desire at all? Second, even if there is such a desire, do we have good reason to suppose, apart from the bald assertions of argument defenders, that this desire is widespread or even close to universal? Third, if there is such a desire, is the desire a natural desire? Beversluis says that the desire is ethnocentric, not shared cross-culturally, but rather confined to Western culture. Finally, he maintains that we have no reason to suppose, even if the desire were widespread or even universal, that it has an object that satisfies it.

In response, it seems to me that the defender of the argument from desire does have some things to say. First, the argument’s defender can begin by hypothesizing about what we should expect to find if humans were created for fellowship with God, but that fellowship was broken. If that were the case, then we might expect to find that we are often not satisfied even when our earthly desires are satisfied. We would expect not to feel at home in the material world in which we find ourselves. As Lewis once asked,

If you are really a product of a material universe, how is it that you don’t feel at home there? Do fish complain of the sea for being wet? Or if they did, would that fact itself not strongly suggest that they had not always been, or would not always be, purely aquatic creatures?”

We could have the sorts of desires that only God could satisfy if God exists, and be designed to have those desires, even if we often fail to recognize our desires as desires that can be satisfied only by God. Is the desire universal? As Beversluis indicates, this would be very difficult to prove. Is it widespread? Well, it is certainly pervasive in literature. Corbin Scott Carnell says that it “may be said to represent just as much a basic theme in literature as love.” Is it ethnocentric? Hindus tell people who are concerned with sex, wealth, power, and even family relations that these are acceptable goals, but that they are not ultimately satisfying. They seem convinced that sooner or later people will turn from these pursuits to the pursuit of moksha, or release. Are their powers of psychological observation faulty?

In 1992 the Forbes magazine commemorated its seventy-fifth anniversary by inviting eleven distinguished writers and scholars to contribute articles addressing the question “Why are we so unhappy?” But why ask that question if ordinary human satisfactions did not leave us with a dissatisfaction, or if it were clear just what material satisfactions would make us all happy?

Yet I am inclined to suppose that Beversluis may be right in supposing that what Lewis is talking about when he talks about Heavenly Desire is not something that would emerge from an analysis of “X desires that Y.” That is, I don’t think, at least from the perspective, let’s say, the teenage atheist Lewis, it makes sense to say “C. S. Lewis desires fellowship with God.” But we can look at the young Lewis’s desires another way. If we think that there is a design plan for C. S. Lewis, it may be that he has been designed in such a way that his desires can only be satisfied through communion with God and that God has created him so that he can be satisfied only in this way. Someone, it seems to me, can have a desire for God from the standpoint of their design plan, even if they do not themselves recognize the desire as a desire for God.

Pascal once wrote:

All men seek happiness. There are no exceptions … Yet for very many years no one without faith has ever reached the goal at which everyone is continually aiming. All men complain: princes, subjects, nobles, commoners, old, young, strong, weak, learned, ignorant, healthy, sick, in every country, at every time, of all ages, and all conditions. A test which has gone on so long, without pause or change, really ought to convince us that we are incapable of attaining the good by ourselves. … This [craving, man] tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since the infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.

Now in order to meet Beversluis’s challenge we have to have a fairly broad conception how this desire might be manifested in persons. Adam Barkman points out that Lewis uses several concepts to talk about the desire in question: Platonic Eros, Romanticism, the numinous, Sehnsucht, Joy, and hope. If we assume from the beginning that something like the Christian God exists, then we can explain a range of human phenomena in terms of the fact that we are made for fellowship with God, and are bound to have a sense that something is missing unless we are in fellowship with God.
But if we are talking about an argument for God, then, of course, we can’t assume that God exists. A naturalistic atheist would no doubt explain these facts of human experience in terms of Darwinian psychology. Is it possible that we have desires that could only be satisfied by God, but there is no God? Lewis once used the statement that “nature does nothing in vain” to support his claim that these desires must be satisfiable. But isn’t that, as Beversluis suggests, a question-begging assumption? Doesn’t it presume that nature is under the control of a conscious agent who makes sure nothing is done in vain? After all, nature has given us appendixes, which these days serve no purpose but to give doctors something to remove (and charge us for).
Yet even on Darwinian assumptions there is usually some reason why we have certain characteristics. Our heart is in the right place, because it wouldn’t help up to survive if it were in the wrong place. Human beings with desires that don’t seem in any way to promote survival, as these “heavenly” desires do, does seem a little surprising in a naturalistic universe. I have suggested, following Thomas V. Morris, that the argument be developed as a confirmation-theoretic argument. If you have two hypotheses, A, and B, and you have a phenomenon C which is experienced, A is confirmed relative to B if C is more likely to exist if A that it is to exist if B. If A is theism and B is atheism, it seems to me that these desires are very likely given theism, but not especially likely given atheism. They could arise in an atheist universe, but we wouldn’t expect it. So, on the face of things, it looks as if the argument from desire confirms theism.

There is a great deal more to be said on this issue, both pro and con, as the linked discussion indicates. But I think I have said enough to have shown that Beversluis’s criticisms do not constitute a final refutation of the Argument from Desire.

Monday, January 04, 2010

C. S. Lewis on the Joy of Reading what you Don't Agree With

HT: Joshua Blanchard. From C. S. Lewis's The Empty Universe.


It has also given me that bracing and satifying experience which, in certain books of theory, seems to be partially independent of our final agreement or disagreement. It is an experience most easily disengaged by remembering what has happened to us whenever we turned from the inferior exponents of a system, even a system we reject, to its great doctors. I have had it on turning from common “Existentialists” to M. Sartre himself, from Calvinists to the Institutio, from “Transcendentalists” to Emerson, from books about “Renaissance Platonism” to Ficino. One may still disagree (I disagree heartily with all the authors I have just named) but one now sees for the first time why anyone ever did agree. One has breathed a new air, become free of a new country. It may be a country you cannot live in, but you now know why the natives love it. You will henceforward see all systems a little differently because you have been inside that one. From this point of view philosophies have some of the same qualities as works of art. I am not referring at all to the literary art with which they may or may not be expressed. It is the ipseitas, the peculiar unity of effect produced by a special balancing and patterning of thought and classes of thoughts: a delight very like that which would be given by Hesse’s Glasperlenspiel (in the book of that name) if it could really exist. I owe a new experience of that kind to Mr. Harding.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

William Lane Craig on Middle Knowledge and the Inspiration of Scripture

How can God make us free, and yet guarantee the inerrancy of Scritpure? (Or Papal Infallibility, for that matter). William Lane Craig thinks that Middle Knowledge will help.