Wednesday, December 30, 2015

William Lane Craig on the size of the universe argument


Materialism and Hyper-Freudianism

I think there may be some limits on what questions can reasonably be considered to be empirical questions. Let’s take the Freudian view of religious belief as an example. According to Freudians, (and many other atheists as well) even those who think they believe in religious beliefs for reasons are really believing them for emotional reasons, and the “arguments” they provide are merely rationalizations. But why stop with religious beliefs? Isn’t it possible that we don’t believe any of our beliefs for reasons, but rather, we believe them for other reasons. If we looked at how we actually form beliefs, couldn’t we discover that, in fact, we never believe anything for the reasons we think we do? Is the statement “No one ever believes anything for a reason” at least possible? I like to refer to this position as hyper-Freudianism.
Unfortunately, such a position involves what Lynne Rudder Baker calls cognitive suicide. If a hyper-Freudian is asked why she believes in hyper-Freudianism, and she offers evidence for her belief, then by offering such evidence she falsifies hyper-Freudianism.
Now, I actually think that if categories are not fudged, and the material is defined, as it often is, in terms of the absence of the mental, then materialist theories of mind actually entail hyper-
Freudianism. It results in a proof that there are no proofs, which has to be nonsense.
It follows that no account of the universe can be true I unless that account leaves it possible for our thinking to be a real insight. A theory which explained everything else in the whole universe but which made it impossible to believe that our thinking was valid, would be utterly out of court. For that theory would itself have been reached by thinking, [22] and if thinking is not valid that theory would, of course, be itself demolished. It would have destroyed its own credentials. It would be an argument which proved that no argument was sound–a proof that there are no such things as proofs–which is nonsense.-C. S. Lewis: Miracles, chapter 3. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Fallacy of Tendentious Terminology

Magic is "The pretended art of influencing events, and of producing marvelous physical phenomena, by processes supposed to owe their efficacy to their power of intervention of spiritual beings..."

Except, if God performs a miracle, he's not pretending to perform it, he is performing it. So God, by definition, cannot engage in magic. If he exists. If he doesn't exist, then he can't do magic or anything else. But the use of the term "magic" here begs the question, as do most uses of the Argument from Tendentious Terminology." Or should I call it the Fallacy of Tendentious Terminology.

Rauser on Spiegel on atheism

There is an aspect of this that I am not sure comes through the discussion. As a Christian, I care about whether atheists conduct their critiques in the way that Richard Dawkins does, or the way that Jeff Lowder does. I think the methods of New Atheism are culturally harmful in a way that the methods of other atheists are not. But if I want to criticize New Atheist methods, then I have to also be critical of similar methods coming from within the Christian fold. So I applaud Rauser's response.

The response, from both extremes, is to say that I am concerned about being nice. It's not about niceness. It's about maintaining productivity in discussion even when what we believe matters to us a lot. 

Friday, December 25, 2015

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

New book on the Inklings

Reviewed here.

The true meaning of Christmas

Luke 2: 1-20, New International Version

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Who wrote a lot of Christmas songs? Jews!

By Dennis Prager, here.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Josh McDowell and a certain atheist meme

Here is a version of that meme, from Dawkins:

Well, science is not religion and it doesn't just come down to faith. Although it has many of religion's virtues, it has none of its vices. Science is based upon verifiable evidence. Religious faith not only lacks evidence, its independence from evidence is its pride and joy, shouted from the rooftops. Why else would Christians wax critical of doubting Thomas? The other apostles are held up to us as exemplars of virtue because faith was enough for them. Doubting Thomas, on the other hand, required evidence. Perhaps he should be the patron saint of scientists.

It seems to me that the existence of a book like Evidence that Demands a Verdict refutes this version of the meme. Christians do claim that they have evidence, the don't typically shout from the rooftops that they don't have any and it shouldn't matter. That doesn't mean that they might not have misunderstood the idea of evidence, or that there isn't a lot of popular fideism out there. Discussions here between Dawkins defenders and others have often involved the claim that Christians think they have evidence when they really don't, that to have evidence you have to have thus and so, and McDowell and those like him don't have that. But Dawkins isn't even saying that. This is either ignorance on a massive scale of what Christians have been saying, or intellectual dishonesty.  Or since it's coming from and Oxford professor, both.

Here is Lewis on Doubting Thomas:

The saying "Blessed are those that have not seen and have believed" has nothing to do with our original assent to the Christian propositions.  It was not addressed to a philosopher enquiring whether God exists.  It was addressed to a man who already believed that, who already had long acquaintance with a particular Person, and evidence that that Person could do very odd things, and who then refused to believe one odd thing more, often predicted by that Person and vouched for by all his closest friends.  It is a rebuke not to skepticism in the philosophic sense but to the psychological quality of being "suspicious."  It says in effect, "You should have known me better."  There are cases between man and man where we should all, in our different way, bless those who have not seen and have believed.  Our relationship to those who trusted us only after we were proved innocent in court cannot be the same as our relation to those who trusted us all through."

Great moments in censorship

A school in Eastern Kentucky is forced to leave the Christmas Bible verses out of A Charlie Brown Christmas. 

So, do we have another thing to celebrate during Banned Books Week?

Friday, December 18, 2015

Naive evidentialism and transcendental argumetation

If it turns out that we can't avoid realism about the external world because the alternative is self-undermining, does that mean that the evidence supports realism, or does it mean something else? It seems to me that the case for realism is transcendenal rather than evidential.

Are there certain things we have to presuppose before evidence even becomes an issue? If so, there are positive claims that don't require evidence, and naive evidentialism is false.

What if white supremacy had been true?

Suppose, for example, whites were really superior to blacks. Would there be any moral advantage in suppressing that belief in the interests of equality? Now, in fact, blacks are not inferior, but if they were inferior, should be, on the supposed basis of avoiding racism, deceive ourselves into believing that this was not the case?

Monday, December 14, 2015

Is there good evidence for the resurrection?

I have yet to see a good theory that explains the historical events without running into serious problems when you look at it closely.


It is interesting that atheists say Christians are not interested in evidence when one of the most popular Christian books of the last 50 years is Evidence that Demands a Verdict.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Positive claims require evidence

'Positive claims demand evidence'.

OK, here's a positive claim for you. "My sense experience gives me veridical knowledge of a physical world independent of my mind."

What is the evidence for this one?

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Rape and abortion

People assume that impregnated rape victims will be the ones first in line at the abortion clinic. But is that armchair psychology?

HT" Michael Pieters.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Secret Agent Man

I didn't realize that this song was about C. S. Lewis. See here. 

There is evidence on both sides of the God question

A lot depends on what exactly one means by evidence. My own view of evidence, in the context of the discussion of God, is something that is more likely to be there if God exists than if God does not exist. Evidence against God would be something that is more likely to exist if there is no God than if there is a God. With that understanding, I think the fine-tuning of the universe is a clear case of something that is more likely to exist if there is a God than if there is no God, so it's evidence for God. The degree and kind of pain and suffering that exists in the world does seem to be something that is more likely without God than with God, so that's evidence against God. 
Whether the positive evidence outweighs the negative evidence, to me, is the interesting issue. The no-evidence claim looks like a non-starter. 

C. S. Lewis's We Have No Right to Happiness

Very relevant to present-day issues on matters of sexual ethics. A lot of argumentation on the same-sex marriage issue seem to rest on a "right to happiness" premise that Lewis objects to here.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Is gay marriage destroying normal marriage?

I wonder if many of the people who supported same sex marriage just think that marriage for them is going to be like opposite sex marriage, they just expand the class of persons you can marry. They still think it has to be one person and you have to be faithful, it is just that you can now marry someone of the same sex. Some might think a broader re-evaluation of marriage is not warranted. 

Greta Christina, however, thinks that same-sex marriage is part of wider re-evaluation of marriage. 

When does a fetus become human?

When does a fetus become human? 

From conception, obviously. It is a homo sapiens fetus, not a canis familiaris fetus or a felix domesticus fetus. The question is whether species membership is sufficient for an overriding right to life. 

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Apparently it's not just pro-lifers who think there is no difference between aborting fetuses and killing infants


Religious reasons and legislation: Does legislation have to pass the materialist test?

When we talk about "religious" positions, do we mean positions which are based on something we think God has revealed, or do we mean something that is based on what is called natural law, which isn't based on particular Bible verses, but is nonetheless built on a concept of human nature whereby there is a purpose for human nature, and we can satisfy it of fail to satisfy it based on what we do? Someone like Paul Ryan, for example, bases his opposition to things like abortion and gay marriage on the latter, not the former. 
Positions like his tend to be adopted by people of religious persuasions, but if you were to ask him why he believes what he does, his argument will NOT typically say "The Bible says" or "It is the teaching of the Catholic Church.  But I strongly suspect his reasoning would not be accepted by, say, a materialistic atheist. 
When we say we don't want religious views imposed on us through legislation, does that mean that the case of our laws has to pass the "materialistic atheist test." that is, the arguments for it have to be acceptable from the standpoint of materialism is they are to be legislated? 

Judge not?

“Judge not, lest you be judged”- Matt 7:1-2

This verse is the favorite Bible verse of non-Christians, to fend of criticism for violating Christian standards of conduct.

When we talk about judging, we are talking about the claim that a person deserve something bad for doing something bad. Unless we are charged with the job of assigning criminal punishment, then we have to recognize that we lack knowledge of people's circumstances to know what someone deserves. On the other hand, I don't think that anti-judging mandate makes it impossible for us to say that certain types of actions are morally wrong. We could use the same reasoning for theft, or murder, or adultery, for example, and argue that we can't judge people who do those things.

See here. 

Friday, December 04, 2015

A woman has the right to do as she pleases with her body, but how far do we push it?

Suppose a whole village of about 1000 tiny people were living in a woman's left arm. Suppose the presence of the village in her arm makes her arm itch and is a mild nuisance. But since it's her body, does she have the right to holocaust the village?