Saturday, August 29, 2015

An incoherent triad

Believers often look at the atheist demand for evidence, as presented by typical atheists, as a shell game.

 I went over this issue with the link to Shadow to Light, but I want to pursue the same argument in a different way.

The question I want to pose is whether these three positions can be held in a simultaneous, coherent way.

1) Belief in God is not justified unless there is evidence for belief in God.

2) Evidence for belief in God is possible. There are things God could have done, and should have done, to provide evidence for his existence. Thus, the absence of evidence is really evidence of absence.

3) God of the gaps arguments are wrong on principle. If we lack a good naturalistic explanation for something, an explanation in terms of God will not increase our understanding of it.

If God provides evidence, no matter what he does, it seems to me that 3 could be used to dismiss the case for his existence. Thus, it seems to me that you can't hold both 2 and 3 together. One of them has to go.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

An interesting question

Here. On a cool Autumn night, you are gazing up at the sky when a being suddenly appears and asks, "What can I do to make you believe that I am God?" What is your answer?

I once asked that question to atheist philosopher Keith Parsons. He told me that if the galaxies in the Virgo cluster were to spell out the words "Turn Or Burn This Means You Parsons," that the would turn.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Real Consent

A few months back John Moore wrote:

 Why not use consent as the moral test for sexual activity? If both parties are mature enough and give their willing consent, then it can't be wrong.

The problem with polyamory is just that it's sometimes doubtful whether all parties freely consent. That's also the problem with polygamy and sadomasochism.

 VR: It seems to me that this implies that Real Consent is more than just saying yes, and as such represents a far more restrictive sexual morality than one would be initially inclined to think. 

It seems to me that Real Consent implies a very strong case against pornography, since the person using the pornography cannot be sure that the actors and actresses are not being raped.  

As Linda Lovelace said, "When you see the movie Deep Throat, you are watching me being raped.

Anyone who uses lies or alcohol to persuade someone sexually, it seems to me, does not have real consent. 

I am pretty sure that real consent is not a sufficient test. But it is certainly a necessary condition, and one that is insufficiently developed. 

How to Defeat Modern-Day Atheism With Three Easy Questions


From Shadow to Light.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Defining religious violence, or don't forget to subtract

Hector Avalos writes:
According to my definition, if someone commits violence primarily because of a belief in supernatural forces and/or beings, then I count it as an act of religious violence. For example, if someone says: “God told me to kill gay people” then that counts as religious violence, especially as the person offers or evidences no other reason for killing gay people.
I am not sure about this definition, for various reasons. Persons highly motivated by an anti-supernaturalist world-view, who use violence to advance anti-supernaturalism, it seems to me, are engaged in religious violence. 
Further, the religious factor is hard to isolate in many cases. In the case of violence in Ireland, for example, the political factors and religious ones are hard to separate, and there I suspect the political factor is primary and the religious one is secondary. 
But let's take Avalos' definition and see where it gets us. It seems to me that if we are assessing the tendency of supernaturalism, or some particular version of it to produce violence, then to get a fair assessment, we have to introduce the category of religious nonviolence. Remember that one of the Ten Commandments is "Thou Shalt Not Kill." Now, most of us don't think that the Commandment is the only reason for not killing someone, but surely the disapproval of Almighty God provides a significant motive for those who believe that God exists not to commit certain acts of violence. 
By the way, I am not familiar with any cases of religiously motivated killings of gay people. The most famous case of gay-killing is Matthew Shepard, and in that case not only is there no evidence of a religious motivation, there is good reason to think that this was a case of drug-induced murder, not a gay-bashing. Maybe there are some, but I am not familiar with any. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Does naturalistic evolution support racism, or inequality of other kinds?

Not exactly. But what if some scientists got together and bred an actually superior race, which has been talked about for a long time? Then you would have a real superior race, and would that superior race feel any obligation to treat inferior races as equal? 

Naturalistic evolution does say that it is natural to pursue your own survival and makes sure your genes, not someone else's genes, are passed on. I know they like to talk about going beyond biological mandates, but if someone is driven by an interest in one's own or one's family's survival, what logical reason is there to prefer some other goal? 

The moral codes human beings developed have had a lot to say about how you should treat your neighbor, but people have limited the class of "neighbor" and said that we treat only some people as "neighbors," namely, those who are "one of us." The motivation to get away from this idea has come largely from the Christian tradition, starting with the parable of the Good Samaritan. The idea, which has been less than fully absorbed even by Christians, is that God created everyone and Christ died for everyone, so everyone needs to be treated the same. But even Jefferson, who wrote those words about equality and inalienable rights, was himself a slaveowner

When you take the religion out of it, you are left with the fact that, for the most part, we like societies in which pursue equality. Unless we get into a position to take advantage of inequality. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Against Marriage and Motherhood

By Claudia Card. Why not make it a trifecta and go after the flag, too.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Does the case for same-sex marriage have implicit religious assumptions?

The case for same-sex marriage seems to be based on equality. But one could certainly argue that any argument based on equality has underlying religious premises. The Declaration of Independence says that we were created equal, which, of course would be false if we were not created. And we certainly did not evolve equally, nor would it make sense to say that we were endowed by evolution with certain inalienable rights. So, if atheistic evolution is true, and we were not created, would that not provide a basis for supporting the race, sex, or sexual orientation that one considers to be superior?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The fundamental divide

I do think that there is a fundamental divide between people who think that atheists and theists have a common goal, a goal of understanding one another better, and those who think that the only legitimate goal is the partisan goal of advancing one's own viewpoints.  I think that is the dividing line between people like Loftus and people like Lowder.  

What is likely going to be the result of the polarization of the question of religion is that even with the enhanced communication provided by the Internet, we are still moving toward a culture in which we communicate seriously only with like-minded people. When C. S. Lewis became the first President of the Oxford Socratic Club he talked about the value of such a debating society for the community of Oxford University. I have often wondered what a certain well-known Oxford atheist would have done had the Oxford Socratic Club were still in existence, and he were to receive an invitation to present a paper and engage in dialogue with the resident Christians (such as C. S. Lewis). 

Since I'm a theist and a Christian, I like to see people become theists and Christians. But I also like to make sure there is an open community of discussion concerning these issues, something I value independently of it as an instrument for getting people to agree with me. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Is the death penalty soft on crime?

You could argue that the death penalty mollycoddles criminals, it gives them a painless death they denied their victims.

I think I'd take lethal injection over permanent solitary confinement. In a heartbeat.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Retribution and Revenge

 Revenge and retribution are different. When you get revenge, you can do more to the person than they did to you. Retribution is limited by what the person deserves.

Gen 4: 23-24 23 Lamech said to his wives,

“Adah and Zillah, listen to me;
    wives of Lamech, hear my words.
I have killed a man for wounding me,
    a young man for injuring me.
24 If Cain is avenged seven times,
    then Lamech seventy-seven times.”

That's revenge, but not retribution.

Is the death penalty better retribution?

As an admirer of C. S. Lewis's essay on the Humanitarian Theory of Punishment, I nevertheless have reservations about the retributive adequacy of the death penalty.  I guess the question is whether the death penalty is better retribution than, say, life without parole. I think that people make a mistake when they think that a penalty fits the crime better if it resembles the crime. If we want resemblance to the crime, our current methods of execution give the criminal a painless death which the criminal denied to  his victim. But torturing a murderer to death is cruel and unusual punishment.

The death penalty dilemma

 You also have a dilemma where capital punishment is concerned. If you have it, we feel a strong obligation to enhance the appeal process to make sure innocent people aren't executed, since the penalty is irreversible. But if you do that, then you severely weaken the deterrent effect of the death penalty, and the value of closure for victim's families is also taken away, since families have to relive the crime every time a new hearing or trial takes place. I hear of people being executed today who committed their crime in 1989.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

You can't have your Kate and Edith too

The song, by the Statler Brothers, is here

I don't think defining religion as a perspective on ultimate reality is uninteresting or useless.In particular in America one of our guiding concepts is keeping matters of religion free of compulsion. Some people on the atheist side want to engage in what I consider to be compulsion, but this often tries to fly under the radar because on the face of things it isn't religion. But, in the sense that matters for things like the Establishment Clause, atheism is very much a religion. 

For example, it is hypocritical to use the Establishment Clause argue against the teaching of intelligent design on the grounds that those who advocate it intend to undermine materialism and support religious belief, but not use the Establishment clause to argue against the use of evolution to attack religious belief and promote materialism.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Sunday, August 02, 2015

From an old post by Gregory on evidentialism

From this discussion.

But the most damning problem with Clifford's thesis is this:

Whatever criterion is used to measure the sufficiency or insufficiency of "evidence", by the very nature of the case, it is not something that is susceptible to evidential verification. Rather, such criterion are "brute" principles by which we must assess the adequacy or inadequacy of evidence. It [first principles] cannot be "proven". Therefore, Clifford's approach is self-stultifying and/or incoherent.

Consider Clifford's statement:

"It is wrong always, and everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence."

Question: how does Clifford prove his own statement? What does he mean by "wrong"? Are ethical principles the sorts of things that can be scientifically verifiable? Are the methods and principles of science, themselves, scientifically/empirically verifiable?

"Should one say that Knowledge is founded on demonstration by a process of reasoning, let him hear that first principles are incapable of demonstration; for they are known neither by art nor sagacity."

St. Clement of Alexandria in his "Stromata" Bk. II; Ch. IV.