Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Tom Clark's case against contempt

From naturalism.org.

Here. 

24 comments:

Greg said...

Interesting article. It seems to me there is no right or wrong answer here from the naturalist's side of things. It is self-defeating for the author to condemn the New Atheists for mocking the pre-determined beliefs/actions of theists when the NAs themselves are incapable of choosing mockery. Of course when he discovers this, whatever he does is pre-determined. One would hope that this train of thought would lead him to reject determinism, and with it naturalism, but too amend Lewis, "A young man who wishes to remain an atheist can never be too careful of his thinking."



If you click on the Alvin Plantinga link at the bottom it takes you to a brief discussion of the EAAN. It is only a brief discussion of the argument, mind you, but it confirms my long-held belief that otherwise intelligent naturalists have the incredible ability to mentally block out the crux of the AfR (or EAAN). They seem quite happy with assuming that a non-physical mind exists (i.e. true beliefs can be selected for in a materialistic universe) when they need a rational epistemology while rejecting it all other times in order to protect scientism. Of course appealing to empiricism over reason would work if the former weren't subsequent and in dire need of the latter. As was said earlier, be careful what you think about.

John Moore said...

For some people, being ridiculed is the only reason they would ever change their views, because getting approval and respect is the only reason they hold their views in the first place.

unkleE said...

I agree with most of what Greg said. I think the most obvious response of the "pro mocking" naturalists is simply to say they don't blame theists any more than a consistent naturalist won't blame criminals, but in the same way their behaviour has to be modified, and if ridicule is the best way, then so be it. Morality has nothing to do with it because it is subjective anyway.

The question then becomes whether the tactic is successful, and how it is responded to by theists. If theists responded in like manner, things could get very nasty, but hopefully christians would turn the other cheek!

John Moore said...

It wouldn't make sense for theists to respond in like manner, because the atheists hold their beliefs for other reasons besides the desire for approval and respect.

Crude said...

It wouldn't make sense for theists to respond in like manner, because the atheists hold their beliefs for other reasons besides the desire for approval and respect.

This is an absolute laugh in both directions.

On the one hand we have the snotty suggestion that theists 'hold their beliefs because of a desire for approval or respect' as opposed to believing that they are correct, which is an obvious overgeneralization.

On the other hand the equally snotty suggestion that atheists are immune from having desires for approval or respect at work in their beliefs - when 'we're smarter!' and 'we're brights!' and the like has been self-evidently at work in the Cult of Gnu push.

Better yet, it's flat out contradictory: "It makes sense to use mockery and derision to try and get Christians to become atheists, because they hold their beliefs because they want approval and respect. But using mockery and derision to try and get atheists to become theists wouldn't work, because no atheist is an atheist due to wanting approval and respect."

Think it through.

Legion of Logic said...

Atheists of the Dawkins or Harris persuasion are like that because that is simply who they are. Childish, scornful, irrational, self-centered, contemptible of anything they disagree with, and masters at rationalizing their own behavior. It's why they flock all over the internet, anonymity is a huge advantage when you get your kicks being a prick.

Al Moritz said...

From the article:

From a naturalist’s perspective based in a commitment to rational empiricism, beliefs about factual matters grounded in faith, revelation, intuition or tradition are notoriously and sometimes dangerously unreliable.

Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. Naturalism, the idea that there is nothing but physical nature and that our universe had merely physical origins, is in itself nothing but an intuition, or philosophical tradition, if you will. There is no evidence for it, scientific or otherwise.

The assumption that nature itself (our universe) is caused by natural causes does not logically follow from the observation that everything within nature works by natural causes (the evidence for miracles put aside). Rather, this assumption or belief is an intuition indeed, an intuition that is not backed up by scientific evidence (there are scientific intuitions/speculations for naturalistic origins, but no observational evidence that would qualify as true science). It is a philosophical extrapolation from science that clearly transcends science proper.

Papalinton said...

What the religiose are feeling and expressing as exemplified right here on this blog is simply the predictable reaction against the rising tide in community sentiment challenging the value, the worth and the validity of the christian narrative as the authoritative paradigm about us, about the environment, about the world, the universe, and humanity's relationship in it.

Society has reached critical mass, and despite the extraordinary and centuries'-long efforts of the religiose to marshall all the forces of the supernatural at their disposal, to constrain the reality of naturalism, this little genie has jumped right out of the bottle.

Tom Clarks may well have a personal view about ridicule, about the use of contempt, and he is entitled to it. He is, however, crystal clear about value and worth of any god thingie thrown into the matrix:

"For a philosophical and scientific naturalist such as myself, the traditional Christian god is ruled out simply because the existence of the supernatural in general is ruled out. If you stick with science as your guide to what’s ultimately real, and critique your assumptions in open philosophical inquiry, there are no good reasons to believe that reality is split between two categorically different realms, the natural and the supernatural. Instead, science reveals that the world is of a piece, what we call the natural world. Disbelief in God, therefore, is a corollary of the rationally defensible claim that nature is all there is, the basis for the worldview known as naturalism." SEE HERE

Ridicule, mockery, contempt, satire, are useful devices in the right places. There are no good reasons for religious belief to be exempt from target practice. Heck, ask any atheist about the level of pious scorn directed their way. Beleaguered ghost worshippers would indeed imagine "Atheists of the Dawkins or Harris persuasion are like that because that is simply who they are. Childish, scornful, irrational, self-centered, contemptible of anything they disagree with, and masters at rationalizing their own behavior....". After all, it is their belief system that is being robustly and quite properly being put under the hammer.

There are two distinct and clear choices that must be decided going forward. Either humanity continues dabbling in the dark arts of supernatural superstition and the reading of portentous signs' from The Book as a measure of progress and improving the human condition, or we place humanity on a firmer, empirical, evidence-based knowledge foundation to better the human condition.

I think it is fair to say that the latter paradigm is that which society is moving towards. Christianity must, out of necessity, accommodate these inexorable shifts in the community. Despite the oft claimed immutability of the Christian narrative, it is not what was once claimed religious fact, or proofs or truth that is immutable. Even in my lifetime christian fact, proofs and truths have shifted ground to allegory, to metaphor, to the benign symbolism of today. It is in fact the rate of change that is immutable.

As the great German philosopher, Schopenhauer, noted: "Faith and knowledge are related as the scales of a balance, when the one goes up, the other goes down."

John Moore said...

Atheists probably hold their beliefs for various reasons, but one thing is clear - when you become an atheist, you become an outcast, a member of one of the least trusted communities in America. If you become a Christian, by contrast, you'll be surrounded by fellow Christians who are powerful members of the community and who publicly triumph in their Christianity. Christians are still a strong majority in the U.S., holding almost all the political offices.

Christians might hold their beliefs for rational reasons, but most probably believe because it's expedient. No one becomes an atheist because it's expedient.

Victor Reppert said...

Ever try getting a philosophy position at a state university? I remember a friend of mine once looked at all the applications that were turned down without any consideration at the grad school I attended. About half of those were religious believers, as opposed to about 10% of those that were actually considered.

Bob said...

"I remember a friend of mine once looked at all the applications that were turned down without any consideration at the grad school I attended. About half of those were religious believers, as opposed to about 10% of those that were actually considered."

I don't see the problem. If half of the applicants turned down were religious then wouldn't the other half be non-religious? Seems fair to me.

Crude said...

I don't see the problem. If half of the applicants turned down were religious then wouldn't the other half be non-religious? Seems fair to me.

Half their rejected-without-consideration applications were by out homosexuals, and the other half were not. All good there.

Victor Reppert said...

Because there are many subgroups and subcultures in America, you can have social motives for believing any position, regardless of what it is. In some groups being a born-again Christian makes you popular, in others, it makes you unpopular. There are people who think religious believers are believers because they're just not "bright."

For the most simplistic view of the superiority of atheism, the existence of brilliant philosophers and scientists who believe is sufficient to refute their position.

Papalinton said...

"For the most simplistic view of the superiority of atheism, the existence of brilliant philosophers and scientists who believe is sufficient to refute their position."

This is rhetorical pablum of course with a touch of hyperbole on the claim of 'refutation'. Those brilliant philosophers and scientists who also happen to believe are not brilliant at philosophy or science because of their beliefs. They hold their belief in supernatural superstition despite what the sciences and philosophy tell them, most particularly philosophy of the type that is scientifically-informed. One can only be a brilliant scientist if he/she sets down their god-beliefs outside the laboratory door and engages in the practice of methodological naturalism.

"Methodological naturalism is ......an essential aspect of the methodology of science, the study of the natural universe. If one believes that natural laws and theories based on them will not suffice to solve the problems attacked by scientists - that supernatural and thus nonscientific principles must be invoked from time to time - then one cannot have the confidence in scientific methodology that is prerequisite to doing science. The spectacular successes over four centuries of science based on methodological naturalism cannot be gainsaid. On the other hand, a scientist who, when stumped, invokes a supernatural cause for a phenomenon he or she is investigating is guaranteed that no scientific understanding of the problem will ensue." [Prof. Lawrence Lerner]

In essence religious belief is both superfluous and inconsequential to the practice of science. And in the main, people are generally becoming much more to understand and appreciate that religious belief is equally neither an imperative nor a prerequisite for good and decent personhood. It's not really about the superiority of atheism, Victor. Rather it is about the unchanging and abysmal history of failure of religious belief to prevent evil; Rwanda, Nigeria, the Balkans, Iraq, World Trade Centre, Columbine, Sandy Creek school, to mention a few of the most recent of atrocities. At best religion is the group hug always after the event, never before. As Morrie Cohen, formerly Professor of Philosophy and Law at City College of New York, noted: "If religion cannot restrain evil, it cannot claim effective power for good."

Atheism will never be the cause of the demise of religious belief. It will only ever be the effect.






Bob said...

"Half their rejected-without-consideration applications were by out homosexuals, and the other half were not. All good there."

I don't see anything inherently unfair there. Sorry, but I don't see what the problem is.

im-skeptical said...

I think people should be treated with the respect that they deserve.

Greg's comment shows his arrogance and his feeling that HE is the one who is smarter. I have no problem dismissing his beliefs as easily as he dismisses mine. Other Christians are more abusive toward atheists, and I don't think I need to go out of my way to avoid hurting their feelings, any more than they try to avoid hurting mine.

Christians should realize that this is a two-way street. Their scorn and their arrogance merit nothing better from me.

Greg said...

It really is odd to call me out when I referenced actual arguments against the naturalism I was critiquing. Contrast this with the Dawkinses of the world who belittle the religious beliefs of those who (in mind of Dawkins) are programmed by nature to think as they do. If religion evolved to serve a function in human society then its existence is no more worthy of being mocked than the strange instincts of an animal. There is certainly no intrinsic quality to truth that we should prefer it to comfort, is there?

Al Moritz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Al Moritz said...

It really is odd to call me out when I referenced actual arguments against the naturalism I was critiquing.

Yes, that struck me too right away. It seems telling about emotional investment vs. alleged 'rationality' in the worldview of many atheists.

No new phenomenon here. I've repeatedly noticed, for example, that debating the fine-tuning of the laws of nature with atheists can be just as exasperating and futile, with them leaving rationality at the door and going into full-out denial *), as trying to debate evolution with creationists.

___________

*) even though scientists who share their atheistic worldview confirm the phenomenon and debunk most of their common arguments against it

im-skeptical said...

"It really is odd to call me out when I referenced actual arguments against the naturalism I was critiquing."

Your attitude is typical of many theists.

"... confirms my long-held belief that otherwise intelligent naturalists have the incredible ability to mentally block out the crux of the AfR"

You speak of this AfR as though it was indisputable. The AfR is (as I have pointed out before) based on unsubstantiated assertion that rationality can't arise naturally from matter. It is only your religious superstition that makes you believe this - certainly not observation or evidence. Yet you talk as though people who seek evidence to support their beliefs are the irrational ones. That is arrogant. So pardon me for telling it like it is.



amorbis said...

The AfR is (as I have pointed out before) based on unsubstantiated assertion that rationality can't arise naturally from matter. It is only your religious superstition that makes you believe this - certainly not observation or evidence.

The assertion that rationality can't arise naturally from matter is not "unsubstantiated"; it is ARGUED FOR. You do not even understand the AfR, because you are constitutionally incapable of understanding complex philosophical issues. The reasons for doubting the ability of rationality to arise from matter have to do with physical determinism and the nature of physical causation, not with "religious superstition".

Idiot.

im-skeptical said...

With all due respect, amorbis, the assertion that the assertion that rationality doesn't arise from "nonrational" things is a PREMISE of the AfR (at least the versions that I have heard). If that is what is being argues for, then it is obviously a blatantly circular argument.

Premise 1 of CSL's AfR: "1. No belief is rationally inferred if it can be fully explained in terms of nonrational causes."

Now you claim that physical causation is the real reason that rationality can't come from matter. I would love to hear the full explanation of this, because I have asked this question over and over again, and nobody has answered it yet. Why can't rationality come from matter?

amorbis said...

Now you claim that physical causation is the real reason that rationality can't come from matter. I would love to hear the full explanation of this, because I have asked this question over and over again, and nobody has answered it yet. Why can't rationality come from matter?

For a basic explanation of this, please refer to this section from Edward Feser's book Philosophy of Mind:

http://pastebin.com/8nARFD8P

im-skeptical said...

amorbis,

The material you provided contains a fundamental flaw. It assumes that mental phenomena are somehow different from, or separate from the physical function of the brain, and thus arrives at the incorrect conclusion that evolution can't account for thought processes. You need to dump your dualistic notions of mind and take a more realistic (ie. truly materialistic) view of mind if you want to escape the logical dead-ends that dualism leads to.

I haven't read Feser's book, but I'll see if I can find it. Still, I know that Feser is hopelessly mired in dualism, and I don't believe for a second that he espouses anything other than theistic-inspired non-science.