Sunday, August 10, 2014

Atheist Quentin Smith on the Philosophy of Religion

This is relevant to the "end of the philosophy of religion" debate, although I suppose someone probably brought this up already.

If each naturalist who does not specialize in the philosophy of religion (i.e., over ninety-nine percent of naturalists) were locked in a room with theists who do specialize in the philosophy of religion, and if the ensuing debates were refereed by a naturalist who had a specialization in the philosophy of religion, the naturalist referee could at most hope the outcome would be that “no definite conclusion can be drawn regarding the rationality of faith,” although I expect the most probable outcome is that the naturalist, wanting to be a fair and objective referee, would have to conclude that the theists definitely had the upper hand in every single argument or debate.[3]

I got this from this source. 

29 comments:

Dave Duffy said...

Watching one of my son’s work his way through a philosophy degree in the secular university gives me great hope that Theism and Christianity will continue to be argued in academia. Although I’m not much help for him when he is struggling with some idea (the problem of evil, lately), he still comes to me for practical matters—the mechanics of his pick-up truck, his relationship to his girlfriend, the practice of the faith. The good thing going for him is that he reads everything and genuinely likes his atheists’ professors who seem to have an equal respect and warmth toward him.

I think the evenings working with the youth in his church is what keeps him balanced about the whole struggle. I also try to remind him, in an encouraging way, that he is still young.

Lapa Pinton said...

An increasing number of philosophers continue to embrace a scientifically-informed philosophy. Indeed, one might say that science provides the only possible agent nixtamalization to treat the rough maize of reality. A science-based world-view is simply far more epistemologically robust. Not only is it robust, but it also functions in a manner analagous to Robitussin, as a "cough syrup" [if the reader allow me such a metaphor] to break down the phelgmy dregs of superstition-infected lungs.


O how trite and gauche to continue to advocate supernaturalist superstition in the 21st century. But no longer will the superstitious block out the cutting criticisms put forward by thinkers such as myself. As can be seen in clips such as this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GgYk2-ibBSM

Young, cosmopolitan educated people like the fellow in the clip simply refuse to be gripped by the primitive hatreds and insularity which bring forth the plethora of mythos and superstition.

As anthropologist David Eller wrote [have I mentioned him before?] “Insularity is the foundation of ethnocentrism and intolerance; when you only know of those like yourself, it is easy to imagine that you are alone in the world or alone in being good and right in the world.

Victor, you have wasted so much time reading that supersititous theo-philosopher of religion C.S. Lewis when you should have been reading scientifically based thinkers like A.A. Lewis, who wrote: ‘In this moment, I am euphoric. Not because of any phony god’s blessing. But because, I am enlightened by my intelligence.

Lapa Pinton said...

For further reference, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robitussin_DAC

Also, are any of the supernaturalist readers of this blog aware that Quentin Smith the following: It is possible that a detenser might try to defend Beer's argument along the following line. The detenser will note that at one point Beer mentions the relevant difference in sense between the A-utterance and the B-utterance.

One suspects that Smith's theistic sympathies, as clearly displayed in Victor's quote, have profoundly superstitionised his mind. He's talking about "Beer" as if "Beer is a person. If this isn't a case of hyperactive agency detection, then I don't know what is. A more scientific approach would be to describe Beer as "an alcoholic beverage usually made from malted cereal grain (as barley), flavored with hops, and brewed by slow fermentation"

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/beer

Dave Duffy said...

Is it the internet, anonymity, atheism, or a bad childhood that cause people to be this gaseous?

John Bavinck said...

Its a testament to the sheer intellectual sluggishness of the new atheism that they seem to have failed to notice that the "philosophy of religion" they decry in their grumpy uncomprehension, also includes spirited defences of the atheist dogmas they presumably cherish so much.

Alas, our new anti-intellectuals just aren't pleased with all the high-falutin' discourse, no matter which direction the arguments are aimed.

im-skeptical said...

Quentin Smith is Wrong

grodrigues said...

@Dave Duffy:

Lapa Pinton is a (hilarious) parody of Papalinton.

Dan Gillson said...

I love Skep's post. Smith is wrong because he's an elitist (ad hominem fallacy) and because non-specialists can make good arguments (red herring). What a moron.

Papalinton said...

"Lapa Pinton is a (hilarious) parody of Papalinton."

grodrigues, as we are all led to understand, "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."

Ironically, this aphorism was originally coined by the 19th century English cleric and writer, Charles Caleb Colton, who himself fled England and from his baying creditors to live the the USA for some time before settling if France. Made a fortune gambling only to lose it all.

Josh said...

"science provides the only possible agent nixtamalization to treat the rough maize of reality"

That...is so incredible. You are my hero

Legion of Logic said...

We need to get Lapa a Comedy Central show tobe the Gnu version of Stephen Colbert. That would be so awesome.

Papalinton said...

I think there is far too much desperation in theist circles looking for a reason, any reason, anything, to stay the slowly extinguishing support for the concept of supernaturalism, the 'apparent' [correct choice of word here] metaphysical world replete with demons, gods, sprites, and other things that go bump in the night, the purported realm of mathematics and thoughts and ideas and other such.

What is missed by Victor here is the bigger picture. Smith might think theists have the better arguments. Given the historical circumstance of committed theists honing their responses over a long period of time without so much as, or in the absence of, what one might characterize as 'no opposition' to the hegemony of christian thought. But even he is not convinced by theist argument and remains solidly in the camp of naturalism, resolute in his conclusion that naturalism is the correct ontology. Why? Because naturalism works. It has far greater and demonstrable explanatory power than does supernaturalism. Supernaturalism remains the theist 'grab-bag' for all things inexplicable because of our ignorance.

At base the philosophy of religion is largely prosecuted by apologetics, a sophistry that attempts to defend the indefensible despite the light of evidence, proofs, facts. When one engages in scientifically-uninformed philosophy one is practicing theology.



Papalinton said...

Follow-up:

"Given the historical circumstance of committed theists honing their responses over a long period of time without so much as, or in the absence of, what one might characterize as 'no opposition' to the hegemony of christian thought, .....one is not surprised that with that observation."

B. Prokop said...

"the slowly extinguishing support for the concept of supernaturalism"

What planet are you living on, Linton? Do you honestly see less support for supernaturalism in the world today than there was, say, when you and I were born? Really? Now that's unbelievable! (as well as resolutely ignoring empirical evidence)

Legion of Logic said...

"I think there is far too much desperation in theist circles looking for a reason, any reason, anything, to stay the slowly extinguishing support for the concept of supernaturalism"

Please link an example of this desperation. I surely hope I can detect some desperation in your evidence that is forthcoming. And if young-earth creationism is all you can come up with, I think I will consider the issue settled.

"It has far greater and demonstrable explanatory power than does supernaturalism."

For many things, yes. For others, such as explaining why anything exists or why morality should be binding, naturalism has barely scratched the surface, let alone come up with anything coherent.

"Supernaturalism remains the theist 'grab-bag' for all things inexplicable because of our ignorance."

And the atheist equivalent is "well we don't know YET, but we know it isn't God!!!"

"...despite the light of evidence, proofs, facts"

Yes, despite the light of evidence, proofs, facts, there are atheists. Isn't that something? Now then, if you can present some evidence for philosophical naturalism being true, you might have some sort of justification for criticizing others' beliefs. As is, I'm as likely to take an atheist's critiques of my beliefs seriously as I would a flat-earther criticizing my knowledge of geography.

Victor Reppert said...

If Christianity is true, but no one believes it, it's still true. The human race, individually or collectively, is not infallible.

Samwell Barnes said...

"Do you honestly see less support for supernaturalism in the world today than there was, say, when you and I were born?"


David Bentley Hart made an interesting point recently that we are actually more sure of the supernatural than we are of the natural, for the simple reason that existence itself is a supernatural thing. I forget his exact argument, but existence itself can never be given a purely natural account, since the natural world is necessarily that which *already* exists, and therefore our every encounter with the natural world is through the veil of the supernatural.

Dan Gillson said...

Could you post the link, Sam? There's quite a long logical jump to the fact that existence can't be given a natural account from the fact that the natural world exists already, and an even further one to the fact that our every encounter with the natural world is through the veil of the supernatural from the other two facts.

mattghg said...

I have an idea. Someone post quotations from either Papalinton or Lapa Pinton, without saying which, and the rest of us have to guess who said it. Should be fun.

Samwell Barnes said...

Hey Dan,

The passage I had in mind was from his latest book, The Experience of God: Beauty, Consciousness, Bliss.

http://books.google.com/books?id=IU2rAAAAQBAJ&pg=PT16&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=3#v=onepage&q=already%20exists&f=false

That was the best link I could find. Click on the page that roughly begins with "Physical reality cannot account for its own existence for the simple reason...". It's been a while since I read the book, so I'm not sure if his entire argument is couched in that one paragraph, but he does end that passage by concluding what I thought he said initially: "It is the supernatural of which we have direct certainty, and only in consequence of that can the reality of nature be assumed, not as an absolutely incontrovertible fact but simply as far and away the likeliest supposition."

I'll probably reread the book later this year, as my first read through was admittedly quite fast.

Dan Gillson said...

Lovely. I'll see what I can glean from it.

Papalinton said...

"Do you honestly see less support for supernaturalism in the world today than there was, say, when you and I were born? "?

Yes. At the intellectual level philosophy has moved on fairly significantly from its earlier form, based as it was in theology. Indeed metaphysical naturalism seems to have garnered a greater level of activity and philosophical interest than supernaturalism. While Bentley Hart, Feser, Plantinga and others still seem to persist with a personal interest for or a predilection towards supernaturalism, contemporary mainstream philosophy has generally not been persuaded by their arguments.

From a purely raw numbers perspective, what's interesting is this information:

Researchers David Bourget and David Chalmers released the results of the largest SURVEY of professional philosophers ever conducted. There were 931 respondents from 99 leading philosophy departments around the world.
First, here are the editors’ thoughts on the DESIGN of the survey and the RESULTS. So what are the results?

72.8% atheism
14.6% theism
12.5% other

59% compatibilism (usually a rejection of contra-causal free will)
12.2% no free will
13.7% libertarianism
14.9% other

56.3% moral realism
27.7% moral anti-realism
15.8% other

49.8% naturalism
25.8% non-naturalism (but not necessarily supernaturalism)
24.2% other

75% scientific realism
11.6% scientific anti-realism
13.3% other

26.3% B-Theory of time
15.4% A-Theory of time
58.2% other

While numbers do not of themselves prove the truth of a proposition, what cannot be so summarily dismissed are the numbers for each of the categories. It seems belief in the supernatural might be motivated by another source and in all likelihood not from a philosophical one. Perhaps socialization? Childhood inculcation? It seems Drs Hart, Feser, Plantinga and Reppert swell the 14.6% of philosophers.

In follow-up HERE IS A MOST INTERESTING ARTICLE [Part 1] on the Gutting/Plantinga interview [both are philosophy professors at Notre Dame]. Perhaps of particular interest to you, Victor.

Samwell Barnes said...

Wow. Took me the whole day to realize that the subtitle of Hart's book is actually Being, Consciousness, Bliss. Beauty is to be found in the book, not on the cover.

B. Prokop said...

" the largest SURVEY of professional philosophers"

Hah! I refer to the "support for supernaturalism in the world today" by the planet's population as a whole (seven billion plus and counting), and you respond with what "professional philosophers" think. Your exclusion of the people at large from your calculations is most telling.

Papalinton said...

Never let facts ever get in the way of religious belief, eh Bob?

B. Prokop said...

"Never let facts ever get in the way of religious belief, eh Bob?"

What? How can you possibly say this? You are the one who is cherry picking a subset of the general populace in order to skew the facts your way, and then accuse me of doing so?

How on Earth does your mind work? Or does it work at all?

B. Prokop said...

For an example of actual empirical evidence on the growth of "support for supernaturalism" in the world today, see HERE.

Papalinton said...

And how does that explain what's occurring in the US?

B. Prokop said...

I said nothing about the US - I specifically referenced the entire Earth (when I used the phrase "in the world" - three times, no less). And I am totally correct here. On a global scale, the "support for supernaturalism" is growing by leaps and bounds. No danger of religion "withering away" any time soon (or later, for that matter).