Monday, September 30, 2013

C. S. Lewis on Faith from Mere Christianity

A redated post.

Roughly speaking, the word faith seems to be used by Christians in two senses or on two levels, and I will take them in turn. In the first sense it means simply belief--accepting or regarding as true the doctrines of Christianity. That is fairly simple. But what does puzzle people--at least it used to puzzle me--is the fact that Christians regard faith in this sense as a virtue. I used to ask how on Earth it can be a virtue--what is there moral or immoral about believing or not believing a set of statements? Obviously, I used to say, a sane man accepts or rejects any statement, not because he wants or does not want to, but because the evidence seems to him good or bad. If he were mistaken about the goodness or badness of the evidence, that would not mean he was a bad man, but only that he was not very clever. And if he thought the evidence bad but tried to force himself to believe in spite of it, that would be merely stupid.
Well, I think I still take that view. But what I did not see then--and a good many people do not see still--was this. I was assuming that if the human mind once accepts a thing as true it will automatically go on regarding it as true, until some real reason for reconsidering it turns up. In fact, I was assuming that the human mind is completely ruled by reason. But that is not so. For example, my reason is perfectly convinced by good evidence that anesthetics do not smother me and that properly trained surgeons do not start operating until I am unconscious. But that does not alter the fact that when they have me down on the table and clap their horrible mask over my face, a mere childish panic begins inside me. I start thinking I am going to choke, and I am afraid they will start cutting me up before I am properly under. In other words, I lose my faith in anesthetics. It is not reason that is taking away my faith; on the contrary, my faith is based on reason. It is my imagination and emotions. The battle is between faith and reason on one side and emotion and imagination on the other.....
Now just the same thing happens about Christianity. I am not asking anyone to accept Christianity if his best reasoning tells him that the weight of evidence is against it. That is not the point at which faith comes in. But supposing a man's reason once decides that the weight of the evidence is for it. I can tell that man what is going to happen to him in the next few weeks. There will come a moment when there is bad news, or he is in trouble, or is living among a lot of other people who do not believe it, and all at once his emotions will rise up and carry out a sort of blitz on his belief. Or else there will come a moment when he wants a woman, or wants to tell a lie, or feels very pleased with himself, or sees a chance of making a little money in some way that is not perfectly fair; some moment, in fact, at which it would be very convenient if Christianity were not true. And once again his wishes and desires will carry out a blitz. I am not talking of moments at which any real new reasons against Christianity turn up. Those have to be faced and that is a different matter. I am talking about moments where a mere mood rises up against it.
Now faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding onto things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. I know that by experience. Now that I am a Christian, I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable; but when I was an atheist, I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable. This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway. That is why faith is such a necessary virtue; unless you teach your moods "where they get off" you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion. Consequently one must train the habit of faith.

C.S Lewis

Now, does it take faith to be an atheist? Of course!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

For Catholics Fideism is a heresy

Odd position to take for a bunch of faith-heads, don't you think.


No evidence?? Really??

A redated post.

On Debunking Christianity Loftus was questioning my claim that there is a boatload of evidence for theism

Exapologist is right of course. I fired off those comments on my blog and then pasted them to the other blog, out of sheer irritation with the "no evidence claim."

In my view, evidence for hypothesis H exists if there is something that is more likely to exist given H than not-h. That is the long and the short of it. There are numerous features of human experience that seem more likely to exist if God exists than if God does not exist. Even if they have possible atheistic explanations, these facts seem to me to make theism more plausible than otherewise. To say that there is NO evidence for theism just means that EVERYTHING in the world is at least as likely given atheism as given theism.

I would not be inclined to say "There is no evidence for theism." and I would not want to say "there is no evidence for atheism." If I were on a website where everyone was implying that atheists were a bunch of idiots and that there is no evidence whatsoever that God does not exist, I could just as truthfully reply that there is a boatload of evidence for atheism. All told, I think the scale points toward theism myself, but not so strongly that I would want to be defending irrationaltiy charges against atheists. (As you may know, I've gotten into some exchanges with people who think that here are really no atheists).

I threw a bunch of stuff out because I thought the discussion up to that point was one-sided and even somewhat ad hominem. I an convinced that a new brand of atheist apologetics is brewing which is doing considerable harm to the quality of debate between our two sides. `

Radical Naturalistic Presuppositionalism

I have never been able to figure out exactly how there arguments for methodological naturalism are supposed to go. It seems that a lot of the time this sort of thing just gets asserted without an real explanation of why it has to be like that.

Let's take the subtitle of Richard Dawkins' book The Blind Watchmaker, which is "Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals A Universe Without Design." Now, if this is taken seriously, it has to imply that evidence of evolution could have revealed a universe with design, but it just didn't. Otherwise, what leads us to the conclusion that the universe is without design wouldn't be the evidence of evolution, it would be the constraints of rational inquiry. The evidence of evolution would be superfluous

Russell presumably said if he met God and were asked to explain is failure to believe in him, he would say "Well, God, you didn't give me enough evidence!" But, that wouldn't make a whole lot of sense unless God could have given enough evidence, but just didn't. But, if it is a fundamental principle of reason that we can't possibly have evidence for God, then that's kind of empty don't you think?

I once asked a longtime friend who is now a well-known atheist philosopher, Keith Parsons "If I were God, and I wanted to rationally persuade you of my existence, what would I have to do?" He told me that if I, as God were to make the galaxies in the Virgo Cluster to spell out the words "Turn Or Burn, Parsons This Means You," he's turn. I guess for many naturalists, there are limits on methodological naturalism. But if Parsons were to turn, I am sure at least some of his atheist colleagues would accuse him of succumbing to a God of the Gaps explanation.

If MN is stated strongly enough, it requires you to reject a theistic explanation (which is surely logically possible) even if it were a true explanation. That's a position that I would describe as radical naturalistic presuppositionalism. Are there any naturalistic presuppositionalists out there? Are there Cornelius Van Tils in the naturalist camp?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Abortion and Moral Objectivity

Some people think that the fact that people cannot agree about the issue of abortion is good evidence that moral values are relative or subjective. It is quite true that there are profound differences about moral values that are extraordinarily difficult to resolve when it comes to this issue. It is also true that a lot of the dispute on this issue takes place at what I call the bumper sticker level: "Abortion is murder" "A woman has the right to do as she pleases with her own body," etc.

However, disputants do agree that humans in general have a right to life. No one, (or almost no one) disputes that. There is a very strong consensus about the right to life outside the womb, even amongst pro-choicers, which is challenged in some cases by Australian philosophers taking pro-choice arguments so far as to justify infanticide, but by and large social consensus against infanticide is pretty strong. No one thinks we have the right to knock off a four-year-old just because the four-year-old is annoying us. People also believe in the right of persons, including women to control their own body. Pro-lifers are not inclined to oppose that right except in the case of a pregnancy, where they believe another person's rights to be involved. Pro-lifers and pro-choicers also agree that the quality of life matters a great deal. It is just that pro-lifers think that quality of life concerns have to be set aside in order to protect the right to life of the fetus, the exact argument that a pro-choice person would make on behalf of four-year-olds.

Hence the contemporary debate concerning abortion is a kind of in-house quarrel between people who agree on a range of fundamental principles. Looked at in this way, the dispute about abortion provides an problem for moral subjectivity, not an argument for it.

The Abolition of Man is online


An ethical claim from Hector Avalos

From this discussion.

I would go much further and argue that all theistic ethics are inherently unethical because,
at least from a secular viewpoint, a functional ethical system is one in which all members
of a community have at least the same potential ability to verify the information on which
their actions are based.

Why assume this? In science, different people have different levels of access. Why must egalitarianism of this kind rule in ethics?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Hush Hush

I believe in at least this part of "teach the controversy," and that is that supporters of evolution shouldn't suppress aspects of evolutionary biology that are problematic, for fear of (God forbid, oops that should be Darwin forbid), providing cannot fodder for creationists. 

As the article says: 

Ball suggests that popular accounts of evolution may be sanitized because of anxiety that the uncertainty might be exploited by people who want to undermine evolutionary theory. But, he writes, "We are grown-up enough to be told about the doubts, debates and discussions that are leaving the putative 'age of the genome' with more questions than answers."

But, if we can't talk about the problems with any theory, then the whole self-correcting mechanism of science is threatened. 

Just for fun, I am including a link to the Pistol Annies' song "Hush Hush." 

Hush hush don't you dare say a word
Hush hush don't you know the truth hurts
Hush hush when push comes to shove
It's best to keep it hush hush
Best to keep it hush hush

Monday, September 23, 2013

Are there pages missing?

Actually, some recent manuscripts have been discovered which show that God first created Adam and Steve. But that didn't work out so well with regard to populating the earth, so God then created Eve to correct the situation. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

How to save a refuted theory

I understand that, for any scientific theory, the "refuted" theory can always be saved by adjusting it to fit the contrary evidence. There is no logical point at which scientists must give up their theory, but theories are often nevertheless abandoned by their adherents (possible when all the old scientists who believed the theory die off). 

The old astronomy was not, in any exact sense, 'refuted" by the telescope. The scarred surface of the Moon and the satellites of Jupiter can, if one wants, be fitted into a geocentric scheme... How far, by endless tinkerings, it could have kept up with them till even now, I do not know. But the human mind will not long endure such ever-increasing complications if once it has seen that some simpler conception can 'save the appearances." The new astronomy triumphed, not because the case for the old became desperate, but because the new was a better tool, and once this was grasped, our ingrained conviction that Nature herself is thrifty did the rest.

C. S. Lewis, The Discarded Image, 219-220. 

Reasons, causes and ontological commitments.

A redated post. 

Explanations, causal or non-causal, involve ontological commitments. That which plays an explanatory role is supposed to exist. Therefore, if we explain the existence of the presents under the Christmas tree in terms of Santa Claus I take it that means that Santa Claus exists in more than just a non-realist “Yes, Virginia,” sense. What this means is that even if reasons-explanations do not exclude physical explanations, even if reasons-explanations are somehow not causal explanations, the naturalist is not out of the woods. The naturalist maintains that the universe, at its base, is governed by blind matter rather than reasons. So if reasons-explanations are true, we still need to know why they are true and why reasons exist in a world that is fundamentally non-rational.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Faith, Reason, Love, and Marriage

I am inclined to see the question of religious belief as a judgment call. If we are looking for proof of the sort we have for the claim that the earth goes around the sun, then this isn't going to work. But there are facts and evidence that seem to be relevant here. There are reasons that can be given on both sides. Because a lot in our lives depend on how we decide, we have to "call it" one way or the other. (Do we go to church or not? Do we follow a religion? Do we use any religious texts as a guide for life? etc.) 
Consider the question of whether someone loves you enough to get married to them. Can you prove that that person will be a good husband or wife? If you wait for proof in some strict sense, then no one will get married. But you can see evidence of someone's love, or more seriously, evidence that someone's love is deficient. Or you could ignore it. People get married to abusers. They should have seen that something was wrong, but they closed their eyes. That may have seemed like true faith to them, but it seems like a recipe for unhappiness now. 

What does it mean?

A redated post.

What does it mean to say "ID is only disguised creationism?" Creationism, I take it would be

C) The species in existence today were specially created by God, and were not produced by any evolutionary process.

Whereas Intelligent Design is committed to

ID) The species in existence today, including man, were, in part, produced by a process distinct from the processes described in neo-Darwinian theory (random variation, natural selection, genetic drift, etc.) in that these processes included the work of an intelligent designer.

But C and ID are really equivalent, because

P) In the proposed high school textbook, Of Pandas and People, numerous references to a creator were changed to refer to an intelligent designer, once the Supreme Court upheld the anti-creationism decisions.

But C and ID are not equivalent, and P does nothing to show that C and ID are equivalent. The changes, clearly, changed the meanings of the statements. Plato clearly believed in ID but not C, and a case could be made the Hume did so as well.

So when people say that ID is just disguised C, what do they mean?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The significance of the Dover decision

Can someone kindly explain to me who died and made some federal judge in Pennsylvania the ultimate arbiter of what is and is not science?

Do people realize that if there hadn't been a personnel change on the Dover school board, the case would have gone up the court system, and there is some evidence that if it had made to the Supreme Court, some justices were likely to overturn the case?

Even if it were not overturned, while we need judges to make decisions like this sometimes, the way this decision is talked about by some people it almost seems to have metaphysical significance. Why?

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Lewis quote Bob was looking for

It's from The Abolition of Man.

“What we call Man's power over Nature turns out to be a power exercised by some men over other men with Nature as its instrument.”
C.S. Lewis

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

One-sided academic freedom?

It sure looks like it here, at Ball State.

Some Clarifications for Steven Carr

Steven Carr: No, the whole point is that 'the power of omnipotence' is a meaningless phrase indicating the total lack of thought that has gone into working out your views.
Apparently, any being other than a god can only win a chess game by playing better moves than his opponent, while in contrast, a god wins chess games by a different method - namely the power of omnipotence.
VR: Actually, it depends on what you want explained. Winning a chess game involves making better moves than one's opponent, granted. But now if we ask "OK, I have the scoresheet, and I know what God did to win the game. But how in the world did he figure out what the best moves were?" we would be ignoring God's omniscience.
Similarly, we might get a good deal more detail about what happened when God raised Jesus from the dead. A Laplacean demon might know in detail what all the physical, chemical, and biological changes were that brought Jesus back to life. That would identify in more detail what the miracle was. But, if we then ask "OK, I see all that, but isn't that impossible given the laws of physics, so how did God do that?" then it seems the interlocutor is simply forgetting that God, ex hypothesi, is omnipotent, and has the power to create the laws of physics or to produce effects that are not possible given the laws of physics, and we would be gratuitously presupposing naturalism, which is precisely what is at issue between the defender of miracles and the opponent of miracles.

Monday, September 09, 2013

How did God do that?

Lowder writes:

The more substantial point is this. Simply claiming that a Creator/Designer is the “best explanation” hardly amounts to showing that a Creator/Designer really is the “best explanation.” In my experience, many (but not all) people who invoke a Creator or Designer as the “best explanation” fail to show that it is the best explanation. Indeed, some (and this includes WK, at least in the linked post) don’t even try! Instead, they just assume that a Creator or Designer is an explanation.  If, however, the design hypothesis isn’t an explanation at all, then it cannot be the best explanation.

This is always an interesting issue. But does it really make sense to ask of an omnipotent being how they did something. For example, I once beat a Grandmaster in a chess tournament. Now, you might ask how I did that, since as someone whose rating has never gone above expert, you might wonder how I did that. (And the answer isn't all the flattering, was able to win because my opponent had had entirely too much to drink.) But if I have all power, then the simple answer is that I used the power of omnipotence to get it done.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Lowder's Is "Freethinker" Synonymous with Nontheist?

A redated post.

Athanasius' On the Incarnation

A redated post.

Athanasius had theological reasons for insisting on the doctrine of the Trinity. It wasn't just a matter of "who won the election." He was concerned about what Arianism would do to monotheism (in spite of a unity of purpose between the Father and the Son) and he was also concerned about the fact that if Arianism is true, then someone other than God is saving us. This edition, of course, includes Lewis's fanous preface, otherwise known as "On the Reading of Old Books."

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Evangelical Outpost on Zombies

Is your neighbor a zombie? Is Britney Spears a zombie? (scratch that). Joe Carter thinks that if materialism is true, we would have to worry about this possibility.

You can't argue with a zombie

A redated post.
A paper by Jaron Lanier.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

The Stanford entry on Functionalism


The final paragraph is as follows:

In general, the sophistication of functionalist theories has increased since their introduction, but so has the sophistication of the objections to functionalism, especially to functionalist accounts of mental causation (section 5.2), introspective knowledge (Section 5.3), and the qualitative character of experiential states (Section 5.5). For those unconvinced of the plausibility of dualism, however, and unwilling to restrict mental states to creatures physically like ourselves, the initial attractions of functionalism remain. The primary challenge for future functionalists, therefore, will be to meet these objections to the doctrine, either by articulating a functionalist theory in increasingly convincing detail, or by showing how the intuitions that fuel these objections can be explained away.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

A question for naturalists

This is from an i'm-skeptical response

This is evidence of your own misunderstanding of what it means to be (at least relatively) free of superstition and woo. It's not the cold, dark bleakness of "mindless electrical impulses" that you make it out to be. I have thoughts and emotions, just like everyone else. Your failure to understand it, your deluded perception, does not change the reality. (I might add here that we all have deluded perceptions - reality is not what it appears.) You've convinced yourself (as have most theists) that "mindless electrical impulses" can't possibly result in cognition. As I said, there is "matter in motion" behind it, but it's anything but mindless. It is just how mental function works. Sorry to disappoint you, the materialist isn't angry and jealous because he doesn't share your happy delusions about mind. But he may well wish that you'd wake up, take a look at the evidence, and stop being so smug about your beliefs. 

I would like to ask I-S whether, in saying that mental explanations are true, he is saying that they are basic-level explanations. Richard Carrier, in his lengthy critique of my book, agrees with me that purposive and intentional basic explanations are unacceptable for naturalists.

Reppert attempts to generalize his arguments to all forms of naturalism only in a very vague and haphazard way when he comes to his defense of "explanatory dualism" as his alternative. For example, he deploys what I earlier described as the Causation Fallacy again when he argues that naturalism's reliance on only two categories of fundamental explanation—necessity and accident—eliminates reason (87), which is teleological (a third category). But this is a non sequitur. Just because our basic explanations are limited to accident and necessity it does not follow that this exhausts all explanations available to us—for not all explanations are basic. Reppert knows very well that naturalism allows teleological causation as a category of explanation (human behavior, for example), and that we explain the emergence of this type of cause as an effect of a complex system of more fundamental nonteleological causes.

Do you think that Carrier has accurately characterized the commitments of naturalism.