Thursday, July 31, 2014

On the philosophy of religion

What we call the philosophy of religion has to do with what we as a culture do with our deepest and most serious disagreements. It's a difficult project, because we have a much easier time talking to people who agree with us for the most part.But if we don't discuss these differences, what do we do? Do we reinstitute the Inquisition for the ideologically unacceptable?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Slagle on Omphalos


I always thought Omphalos was a clever idea.. But these are decisive arguments against it.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

lucky to be alive

I was in a car accident, and broke my hip. I got the worst of it, my wife and daughter are OK. A speeder got us. They're out of the hospital, I have a couple more days.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Some questions about the Kitzmiller decision

I don't think that court case was rightly decided, or at least not for the reasons that was given in the decision. If "the court said it, I believe it, that settles it" was a good argument form, then we could establish that black slaves are really the property of their owners because Dred Scott v. Sandford said that they were.

But now we get to something I really don't get. Edwards v. Aguillard said that you couldn't teach creationism in public school, since this made reference to the doctrines of a specific religion.

The Supreme Court held that the Act is facially invalid as violative of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, because it lacks a clear secular purpose (first test of the above Lemon test), since (a)the Act does not further its stated secular purpose of "protecting academic freedom." and (b) the Act impermissibly endorses religion by advancing the religious belief that a supernatural being created humankind.
They also said:

We do not imply that a legislature could never require that scientific critiques of prevailing scientific theories be taught. . . . Teaching a variety of scientific theories about the origins of humankind to schoolchildren might be validly done with the clear secular intent of enhancing the effectiveness of science instruction.
Now, suppose someone took what was originally a creationist textbook, used all the same arguments, but deleted the implication that a supernatural being was responsible. This is some dastardly subterfuge?

Suppose in fact the people who were developing this were actually creationists, and even young earth creationists. Suppose, further, they hoped that by making the case for a designer, they hoped that they could support religious belief. Couldn't they still say that they were doing what the court says was allowable.

If the court says "You can't do A, but you can do B," you are still doing B and not A even if you wanted to do A, or even if people concluding A was what you hope they would do if you do B, the fact is you ARE doing B and not A.

So they changed the words of the book to satisfy the ruling. Isn't that what you're supposed to do???

Besides it is just plain false to say that advocates of ID are advocates of creationism, if creationism is meant to be something like YEC and flood geology. Behe, for example, affirms common ancestry, something that is an absolute no-no amongst creationists, who will label you an evolutionist if you accept it.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Are you a determinist? Here's how you can tell

Would you say, with respect to any decision that you have made, that given the actual past, you could have done otherwise than what you did? Determinists may agree with the statement "I could have done otherwise," but what they mean is that if the past had been different, the act would have been different.  Libertarians say that even given the actual past, they could have done otherwise from what they did.

Nagel on the idea that ID is science

The denier that ID [intelligent design] is science faces the following dilemma. Either he admits that the intervention of such a designer is possible, or he does not. If he does not, he must explain why that belief is more scientific than the belief that a designer is possible. If on the other hand he believes that a designer is possible, then he can argue that the evidence is overwhelmingly against the actions of such a designer, but he cannot say that someone who offers evidence on the other side is doing something of a fundamentally different kind. All he can say about that person is that he is scientifically mistaken.”
Thomas Nagel

Is Scientific Thought Truncated?

Because Doctor Logic says that the scientific method is the only way to transcend bias in thinking, I want to give some arguments from C. S. Lewis that scientific thought is truncated, and that therefore scientism introduces a bias of its own into our thinking. I am redating this post from 2006.

From Chapter 6, Answers to Misgivings, in C. S. Lewis's Miracles: A Preliminary Study, pp. 41-42.
All these instances show that the fact which is in one respect the most obvious and primary fact, and through which alone you have access to all the other facts, maybe precisely the one that is most easily forgotten—forgotten not because it is some remote or abstruse but because it is so near and so obvious. And that is exactly how the Supernatural has been forgotten. The Naturalists have been engaged in thinking about Nature. They have not attended to the fact that they were thinking. The moment one attends to this it is obvious that one’s thinking cannot be a merely natural event, and that therefore something other than nature exists. The Supernatural is not remote and abstruse: it is a matter of daily and hourly experience, as intimate as breathing. Denial of it depends on a certain absent-mindedness. But this absent-mindedness is in no way surprising. You do not need—indeed you do not wish—to be always thinking about windows when you are looking at gardens or always thinking about eyes when you are reading. In the same way the proper procedure for all limited and particular inquiries is to ignore the fact of your own thinking, and concentrate on the object. It is only when you stand back from particular inquiries and try to form a complete philosophy that you must take it into account. For a complete philosophy must get in all the facts. In it you turn away from specialised or truncated thought to total thought: and one of the fact total thought must think about is Thinking itself. There is a tendency in the study of Nature to make us forget the most obvious fact of all. And since the Sixteenth Century, when Science was born, the minds of men have been increasingly turned outward to know Nature and to master her. They have been increasingly engaged on those specialized inquiries in which truncated thought is the correct method. It is therefore not in the least astonishing that they should have forgotten the evidence for the Supernatural. The deeply ingrained habit of truncated thought—what we call the “scientific” habit of mind—was indeed certain to lead to Naturalism, unless this tendency were continually corrected from some other source. But no other source was at hand, for during the same period men of science were becoming metaphysically and theologically uneducated.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

What is it like to be one of Boghossian's students? "I wrote what I had to to 'agree'.

Here is what a student wrote on a paper in Boghossian's class.

"I wrote what I had to ‘agree’ with what was said in class, but in truth I believe ABSOLUTELY that there is an amazing, savior GOD, who created the universe, lives among us, and loves us more than anything. That is my ABSOLUTE, and no amount of ‘philosophy’ will change that."

Read more:
Inside Higher Ed

Now think about this. A student feels she has to write certain things to pass a course which are contrary to what she believes. As teachers we have the power of the grade. I would certainly feel I had done something wrong if a student felt she had to take certain positions she did not believe in because she was afraid of flunking if she disagreed with me.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

What kind of a person do you want to be?

A post by Unkle E, a frequent commenter here.

Should the Establishment Clause Apply to Atheists as well?


The majority view seems to me that it should be. If this conclusion is drawn, then what happens to Peter Boghossian, who uses his position as a professor at Portland State University, to promote atheism?

Is there a double standard in the way that academic freedom is typically understood? If I made it my stated purpose to convert my students to Christianity, and said so, (something I would never do) would I be more likely to get in trouble with administration than someone like Boghossian, who does what he does?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Thomas Nagel's account of reason

A redated post.

Reason, if there is such a thing, can serve as a court of appeal not only against the received opinions and habits of our community but also against the peculiarities of our personal perspective. It is something each individual can find with himself, but at the same time it has universal authority. Reason provides, mysteriously, a way of distancing oneself from common opinion and received practices that is not a mere elevation of individuality... not a determination to express one's idiosyncratic self rather than go along with everyone else. Whoever appeals to reason purports to discover a source of authority within himself that is not merely personal or societal, but universal... and that should also persuade others who are willing to listen to it. The Last Word (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), pp. 3-4.

One way we might approach some of this is to ask whether reason in this sense exists, as I claim, it must if philosophical and scientific inquiry is to be truly possible, and second, what are the metaphysical implication of the existence of reason in this sense.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

A new book: Trace of God by J. L. Hinman

I've been reading J. L. Hinman's book Trace of God, which is a discussion and defense of the argument from religious experience. In one passage he quotes a passage from someone named Gracely on Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence in which Gracely admits that if ordinary evidence were only required, some paranormal claims would prove to be defensible. It really does look like moving the goalposts to me. This passage is blogged here. 

Sunday, July 06, 2014

There is no science, only sciences

Is this an accurate statement?

John Schellenberg's argument from hiddenness

  1. If there is a perfectly loving God, all creatures capable of explicit and positively meaningful relationship with God who have not freely shut themselves off from God are in a position to participate in such relationships--i.e., able to do so just by trying to.
  1. No one can be in a position to participate in such relationships without believing that God exists.
  1. If there is a perfectly loving God, all creatures capable of explicit and positively meaningful relationship with God who have not freely shut themselves off from God believe that God exists (from 1 and 2).
  1. It is not the case that all creatures capable of explicit and positively meaningful relationship with God who have not freely shut themselves off from God believe that God exists: there is nonresistant nonbelief; God is hidden.
  1. It is not the case that there is a perfectly loving God (from 3 and 4).
  1. If God exists, God is perfectly loving.
  1. It is not the case that God exists (from 5 and 6).

What, if anything, do you think is wrong with this argument. It seems to underly a lot of atheist argumentation these days. 

Thursday, July 03, 2014

An index to the Feser-Parsons exchange

Here. Some hope for those who were wondering if real dialogue between Christians and atheists can still take place in the Blogosphere.