Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Two Problems for Would-Be Communists

Under communism, the slogan is "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs." There are two problems if you are going to go that way. The first is, how are you going to get people to work without the profit motive. You are going to get what you need regardless of whether you work hard, or goldbrick. The second problem has to do with how you decide who needs what. In communist countries, the Communist Party (the vanguard of the Proletariat), decided what people needed, and, unsurprisingly, they decided the Communist Party needed more than non-Party members.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Loftus Challenges P. Z. Myers

Here.  Actually, I think Loftus occupies a position somewhere between someone like Lowder and people like Myers.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

A secular case against gay marriage

From Wintery Knight.

Was there an Obama Spending Binge?

Not according to Rex Nutting. It never happened.

Part of it has to do with putting the two wars into the budget, which Bush didn't do, but Obama did.

Matt McCormick on the meaning of faith

The meaning of the word "faith" is complex. Do you think McCormick understands it correctly? Just click on the powerpoint.
Every time you use the word "faith" in a discussion with an atheist, they are going to declare victory. They will presume that you are believing for no reason, and that you are are admitting that the evidence is against you.

But Lewis saw it quite differently?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Best Congress Money can Buy

I remember seeing a poll that said that Congress had a 19% approval rating. I asked "How can that be? We have the best Congress money can buy!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Does Apologetics Only Reassure the Faithful?

A redated post from over 6 1/2 years ago.

I hear that over and over (and just saw it once again in a post by BeingItself). But apparently not. I got this letter a few weeks back from a recent convert to Christianity:


Dr. Reppert,

I recently got a copy of your C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea. I'm in the
middle of it, and I have found it to be quite good. I was very
impressed with a number of your responses to objections against the
Argument from Reason.

To get to the point, I recently converted to Christianity. I have been
a theist for about six months, after being an atheist for about five
years or so.

I suppose a bit of background would help. I gave up my Christianity
during high school and became an atheist. When I entered the
university, I was a biology major and spent most of my free time
reading books about evolutionary biology and cosmology--especially
Guth's inflationary cosmology.

It wasn't until about a year or so into my college education that I
discovered philosophy. I took my first class and fell in love. I've
always enjoyed philosophical topics, argumentation and the examination
of unquestioned assumptions.

That was about two years ago. I switched my major to philosophy and as
a result have delayed my graduation (I have about two years left). The
point is, that when I discovered philosophy, I concurrently discovered
Platinga, C. Stephen Evans, William Dembski, William Lane Craig, Gary
Habermas, Richard Swinburne, Robin Collins, Soren Kierkegaard, et al.

They were quite good at challenging my scientism(istic) and atheistic
faith. I began to question materialism, which I took to be better
confirmed than theism or humanism. Of course Swinburne's attack on
materialism in his book 'Is There a God?' was hard to swallow.

Of the course of about a year and a half, I began to lose faith in
science, materialism and atheism. And about six months I decided that
there were a number of very good reasons affirm theism as a much
better hypothesis than materialism.

It took a couple of trips of the Cathedral to realize all that
Christianity had to offer. That there were good reasons to believe in
the Gospels historical reliability and that Christianity seemed to
capture the essence of man (if he indeed possesses on) better than any
other.

As a result of this change, and resently getting a copy of your book
(which has helped change my mind as well), how would I go about
defending Christianity and theism? I have a number of very skeptical
friends, most of which are atheists. The work done in defense of
theism is especially good! But what about Christianity? It seems
persuasive to me, but as a theist, the probability of Jesus'
resurrection goes up (i.e. Stephen Davis). But it doesn't follow from
the proposition that theism raises the probability of Jesus'
resurrection that his resurrection isn't sufficiently high to the
naturalist! At least not without further argumentation. That is a
simple point of logic.

I suppose I am a bit overwhelmed. I do not know quite how to proceed.
I got a copy of a book by F. F. Bruce arguing for the gospel's
reliability. But that doesn't seem to be enough.

I know that philosophers have pretty much given up the idea of a
"knock-down" Cartesian-style system to PROVE beyond a shadow of a
doubt that Christian theism is true. But I don't know quite how to
defend Christian theism and show that it is a very reasonable and
powerful alternative to materialism/naturalism AND that it is superior
at least to some degree or other.

Please help! You're advice would be much appreciated.

Jimmy Licon
http://philosopher999.tripod.com/

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A short version of Plantinga's EAAN

From his new book, Where the Conflict Really Lies.


First, the probability of our cognitive faculties being reliable, given naturalism and evolution, is low.  (To put it a bit inaccurately but suggestively, if naturalism and evolution were both true, our cognitive faculties would very likely not be reliable.)  But then according to the second premise of my argument, if I believe both naturalism and evolution, I have a defeater for my intuitive assumption that my cognitive faculties are reliable.  If I have a defeater for that belief, however, then I have a defeater for any belief I take to be produced by my cognitive faculties.  That means that I have a defeater for my belief that naturalism and evolution are true.  So my belief that naturalism and evolution are true gives me a defeater for that very belief; that belief shoots itself in the foot and is self-referentially incoherent; therefore I cannot rationally accept it.
p. 314.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Consciousness-raising assumes that there is an up, and a down

If someone believes that, for example, women should be basically enslaved and treated as inferiors, are they mistaken about that? Feminists talk about consciousness-raising. But, of course, consciousness-raising is only possible if there is an up, and a down.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Dawkins, Falwell, and Ideology

OK, let's take stock. About the worst thing people have come up with about Falwell is that he said that AIDS was God's punishment on gay people, and that opposing it was wrong. Now, that's pretty insane. He has no basis for knowing this. Even on the assumption that homosexuality is a sin, and that homosexuality is one of a long list of offenses against God that Sodom was guilty of, (that's the most conservative reading that can plausibly be given for the Sodom and Gomorrah passage), the idea that AIDS is punishment for homosexuality is still irrational. It's certainly cringe-worthy. Of course, not all AIDS victims, even back when Falwell said what he did, were gay. What makes it worse is that it seems to be grounds for opposing anti-AIDS efforts. If this ever became public policy, it would cause terrible harm. 

But what about Dawkins, or Harris. Dawkins says that bringing a child up as part of a religious community is abusive, comparing it unfavorably with sexual abuse. Yes, he does say that, and he doesn't limit it to people who preach hell-fire to their kids as a means of controlling their conduct. His claims fly in the face of considerable scientific evidence about the effects of religion on children. Since we all agree that the state has an interest in stopping child abuse, and has the right to remove children from abusive parents, this means that he is committed, at least implicitly, to the idea of preventing parents from raising children within their own faith. As I see it, if implemented at the level of public policy, that would bring down the curtain on religious freedom, and on the separation of church and state. In the Soviet Union, they attempted to eliminate religion not by stopping adults from practicing it, but by stopping parents from transmitting it to their children. If this were implemented at the level of public policy it would be disastrous, and sensible atheists should, well, cringe when they hear such a thing. 

Which is worse? Does it matter? They're both pretty awful. 

My point is that whether you are a theist or an atheist, ideology can get control of your thinking and wipe out your common sense, if you let it. The fact that you are saying it in the name of "reason" or "science" doesn't immunize you from this possibility. If you care about a cause enough, you can die for it, and you can also kill for it. The idea that "religion" is somehow liable to this, while anti-religion is somehow immune, strikes me as preposterous.

Probabilities, miracles, and design

I do believe that a case can be made for the claim that the Christian story about what happened in the life of Jesus makes more sense of the evidence than any possible naturalistic story, so long as you are willing to allow for a God who might do such a thing. 

But here Hume keeps coming back. If you base probabilities on what is most frequently found in nature, and you don't introduce the possibility of a non-human designer, then it looks as if the frequency of dead people who stay dead defeats anything but "extraordinary" (read virtually impossible) evidence for, say, a resurrection. 

But, the believer responds, causing the miracles in the life of Jesus seems like something a God might do. It makes sense from a theistic perspective, as opposed to, say, claiming that God caused a bunch of people to hallucinate, or caused a bunch of people to propagate a hoax that would ultimately result in them ending up on the kind of cross that Jesus was crucified on. 

But, the reply goes, likelihoods about what a divine agent might or might not do can't be brought in. They aren't based on experience, the way, say, the frequency of dead people who stay dead does. If you bring God in, you play a wild card. Anything goes. 

But, the theist replies, we can draw inferences about possible divine designers from analogy to human designers. 

That's why I think Lydia McGrew's paper on design and probabilities is relevant to this whole debate, which I linked to a few days ago.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Embarrassment and the New Atheism

I'd like to see an atheist come out and say that they are as embarrassed by some of Dawkins' antics as I am when I hear people like Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson appearing as spokesmen for Christianity.
Of course, Gnus have a name for an atheist who does this: Accommodationist.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Paul Ree's Classic Statement of Hard Determinism

Entitled "Determinism and the Illusion of Moral Responsibility."

A redated post.

Should immigration country quotas be increased?

Would this help with the problem of illegal immigration? There are, as  usual, pros and cons.

I am surprised that there is so much talk about illegal immigration, but little mentioned about possibly preventing it by increasing country quotas.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Atheist Watch

This is a blog devoted to, well:

Watching hate group atheism, sounding the alarm against their bullying.

The argument from consciousness

A piece by J. P. Moreland.

A redated post.

On the Flat Earth Myth

A redated post.

Did Columbus have trouble getting his voyage funded because everyone believed in flat earth? I was taught that in school. But it is a piece of anti-medieval slander, perpetrated by people like Andrew Dickson White.

Are there myths today that advocates of religion-science warfare like to propagate?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Does the Constitution Support a Right to Privacy?

Interestingly enough, the legal case for overturning Roe v. Wade (as opposed to the moral case against abortion) doesn't turn on affirming a fetus's constitutional right to life, but instead on denying a woman's absolute right to privacy, which according to Roe's critics, is an invented right which is the product of judicial activism. Here is some information on the debate concerning the right to privacy.

It seems to me there are four possible positions here. You could accept the court's defense of the right to privacy, but still consider abortion to be murder, you could reject the court's defense of the right to privacy and consider abortion to be murder, you could accept the court's defense of the right to privacy and deny that abortion is murder, or you could reject the court's defense of the right to privacy, but deny that abortion is is murder.

The first and fourth positions seem to be, at least consistent, though they put you in a bit of spot reconciling your moral and legal philosophies. In the first place you are stuck saying that abortion is murder, but it has to be legal to protect a woman's privacy. In the second case, you think abortion isn't murder, but there is no legal basis for stopping the government from legislating against it.

Here is a discussion of the legal issue of privacy.

Ethics without God, or ethics without metaphysics

I am redating this old post.

One interesting point about many ethical philosophies is that while they make no reference to a theistic God, they do seem to be grounded in metaphysics, and the kind of metaphysics at work is one that a modern naturalist would have trouble accepting. Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics are prime examples. Plato's moral philosophy is based on the Form of the Good, which shares certain characteristics with the theistic God, and which can be known through a process of recollection where we recollect what we were aware of in a pre-existence. Aristotle is based on the idea of an inherent purpose for human life, and Stoic ethics is a response to Stoic metaphysics. No one seems to be suggesting that ethics will be all just the same regardless of metaphysics. Even if a personal God isn't required for ethics, doesn't it seem plausible that at the very least some sort of metaphysics is required that most naturalists today would have a hard time accepting. Is it reasonable to reject what Kant called a metaphysics of morals?

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Can Islam Separate Church and State?

In the early seventeenth century, leaders of Christian countries, Protestant and Catholic, thought that their opposite numbers were turning people into candidates for hell. As a result, they slaughtered one third of the population of Europe. As a result, these European countries, still predominantly Christian, accepted the separation of church and state, in other words, they put the coercive power of government on the one hand, and religious fervor on the other, in different hands.




Whether Muslims can do this or not remains to be seen. The Bible doesn't tell you how to govern, and it was written for people with zero political power. The Qur'an, on the other hand, was written with governance in mind, and it was applied in the first instance by people who ran a state. Whether Islam can exist with a separation of religion and government is the question.

Friday, July 06, 2012

The Inclusivism of Vatican II

Since Vatican II, the stand of the Catholic Church has been inclusivism. I wonder how many people think that Catholics hold that all non-Catholics are going to hell.

Five Concepts of Purpose

When we talk about the purpose for our lives, what are we thinking about? It seems to me that there are five conceptions of what the purpose is.

1) A personal goal. That is, a purpose the person selects, because it satisfies a desire of his own. I decide I want to be a fourth-grade teacher, so I start taking classes at Glendale Community College to fulfill that goal.

2) An inherent purpose. Somehow inherent in the object itself is a purpose for existence. If we say the purpose of your eye is to see, perhaps what that means it that the ability to see is part of the nature of eyeness, as it were.

3) A satisfying purpose. It wouldn't make sense to say a rock has a satisfying purpose, but a person is satisfied if it achieves this, and we can also speak of a pig satisfied as well. "You achieved your goal of becoming a millionaire, but you seem dissatisfied nonetheless."

4) A given purpose. Someone who is responsible for our existence has a goal for our existence. This however, might not at all be a purpose that we would select for ourselves. For example, the purpose for which we raise beef cows it for us to eat their meat, which requires us to kill them in order to achieve that purpose. But of course the cows don't want to be killed. On some Calvinistic theological theories, the reason that some people exist is for them to sin and for God to eternally demonstrate his wrath towards them. However, even though those damned to hell achieve the purpose God has for them, they receive no satisfaction from that. One possible thing we might mean when we say that God loves someone, is that we think that the given purpose for their existence, the one God wants for them, is also an inherent purpose and a satisfying purpose.

5) A Darwinian function. A pure Darwinist, one who excludes all intelligent design from the explanation of anything in nature, can say that the purpose of the eye is to see, but what the Darwinian means by that is that the structure of the eye was selected for by the ultimately blind process of natural selection because it made seeing possible, and seeing was helpful in enabling the creature to survive.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Lydia McGrew on identifying intelligent agents

This looks like an intriguing paper.

Abstract: It is often assumed by friends and foes alike of intelligent design that a likelihood approach to design inferences will require evidence regarding the specific motives and abilities of any hypothetical designer. Elliott Sober, like Venn before him, indicates that this information is unavailable when the designer is not human (or at least finite) and concludes that there is no good argument for design in biology. I argue that a knowledge of motives and abilities is not always necessary for obtaining a likelihood on design. In many cases, including the case of irreducibly complex objects, frequencies from known agents can supply the likelihood. I argue against the claim that data gathered from humans is inapplicable to non-human agents. Finally, I point out that a broadly Bayesian approach to design inferences, such as that advocated by Sober, is actually advantagous to design advocates in that it frees them from the Popperian requirement that they construct an overarching science which makes high-likelihood predictions.

Monday, July 02, 2012