Thursday, July 25, 2013

Lowder on Dawkins not debating Craig

I had missed this. Lowder offers real reasons for Dawkins' refusal to debate. I'd take it a step further, and say that even a philosopher of religion can do a disservice to his position if he doesn't have the ability to operate within a debate format. There are good philosophers of religion, both theist and atheist, who would fit in this category. 

However, Dawkins a) has gone away from actual science to doing philosophy of religion, however amateurishly, b) engages in a intellectual crusade while systematically avoiding genuine engagement with people who take the  position he's crusading against. It isn't Dawkins' failure to debate, it's the way he refuses to debate that I find objectionable. 

Fred Dretske RIP

His passing, noted by Eric, is reported here.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Just suppose

Suppose we were to discover that messages that we thought had to come from outer space. We use them for information. We learn to build spaceships based on that information. Then, discover evidence that the source did not evolve. Now what do we do?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Electrons and faith

We walk by faith and not by sight. 

Not seeing is different from not having reasons. I have never once seen an electron. I believe they exist. By faith?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A distinction essential to conservatism

Conservatives tend to think that if something is a protective function of the government, it is worth doing, but if it doesn't protect, then the government shouldn't do it. So, for example, the military protects us, so we support it, but reforming health care isn't something where we need protection, so we shouldn't involve the government in something like that. 

But some people think that protection from disease and protection from enemies trying to kill us are not so different after all. Would you call them liberals? 

Rate Your Morality

Most people think that they are more moral people than the average. But half of us are below average, right? 

Friday, July 12, 2013

How do you solve Hempel's Dilemma?

Here.  How you solve it is important  because it affects the strength of the argument from past explanatory successes, which Danaher dealt with first. The reason for this we need to give an account of what it is for something to be a success for physicalistic explanations. It would have been thought, prior to the discovery of quantum mechanics, that physicalistic explanation means deterministic explanation, but that got abandoned when quantum mechanics came along. So, not everything turned out to be physicalistically explicable if pre-quantum expectations are presupposed. Similarly, the discovery of a beginning of the universe would have been thought to have been an explanatory failure for physicalistic explanation from the point of view of the people prior to the discovery of Big Bang cosmology. What this suggests is that we ought to be rather cautious as to what exactly we are claiming when we say that the mind-body problem will have a physicalistic explanation. What might turn out to be the case is everything that the dualist thinks is true of the mind really is true, but since neuroscience discovers this, the "soul" gets built into physics, and physicalism "triumphs" after all.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Larmer on God of the Gaps reasoning

I'm redating the post on Larmer's essay on God of the Gaps.
I conclude that there is nothing wrong with the reasoning typically involved in “God of the gaps” arguments. The widespread dismissal of such arguments as unworthy of serious consideration is, therefore, unjusti´Čüed.--Philosopher Robert Larmer.
I am a tad surprised that people haven't picked up on this, since it's a direct attack on one of most often-used arguments in the atheist playbook. I do note that Tom Gilson has picked up on it, however.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

"God did it" explanations

A redated post.

Since the God of the Gaps issue has been discussed in several places, I thought I would redate this post from a month ago relevant to that issue.

We are often told that "God did it" explanations are "cheating" that they are "pseudo-explanations." I saw this in reading the combox on Tom Gilson's Thinking Christian site, to which I link here. But what if God actually did it? "The butler did it" is a bad explanation unless, well, the butler did it. Does that mean that we, as rational people, are condemned to not believing the truth because to accept a true explanations would be to accept an unacceptable explanation? Are there any limits on the ban on theistic explanations? Consider this passage from Norwood Russell Hanson:

Suppose that on next Tuesday morning, just after breakfast, all of us in this one world are knocked to our knees by a percussive and ear shattering thunderclap. Snow swirls; leaves drop from trees; The earth heaves and buckles; Buildings topple and towers tumble; The sky is ablaze with an eerie, silvery light. Just then, as all the people of this world look up, the heavens open—The clouds pull apart—Revealing an unbelievably immense and radiant Zeus-like figure, towering above us like a hundred Everests. He frowns darkly as lightning plays across the features of His Michelangeloid face. He then points down at me and exclaims, for every man, woman and child to hear, “I have had quite enough of your too-clever logic-chopping and word-watching in matters of Theology. Be assured, N. R. Hanson that I do most certainly exist. 1

Keith Parsons, in his debate with William Lane Craig, says that if that were to happen he would be on the front row of the church. I once asked Keith this question: Suppose I were God, and I decided to do everything I could to convince you that I existed. What would I have to do? (Keith had sent me a paper defending a broadly Humean position on miracles). He said "If the sky were to spell out the words "TURN OR BURN THIS MEANS YOU PARSONS" he said, he would turn. In fact examples like these are often used as a basis for challenging believers to provide evidence for belief in God. But why demand that theists provide evidence, if, whatever the circumstances, there couldn't be enough evidence. If "God did it" explanations are really verboten, then it hardly makes sense to complain that theists haven't provided evidence for their position. By definition, that's the one thing they can't do.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Another Oxford Urban Legend Debunked

Debunked by J. R. Lucas, here.   Compare his treatment of the Anscombe Legend here.  I have corrected the link.