Tuesday, March 31, 2015

"If there is no God, everything is permitted" in Woody Allen's movies

I think Allen's films (Crimes and Misdemeanors and Match Point) provide a forceful rebuttal to sanguine claims that are made on behalf of "Ethics Without God." It seems to me that, if we take Allen's message seriously, atheism, even if it is true (and Allen thinks it is true), atheism is ethically damaging in a significant range of cases, in that people can get involved in "everything is permitted" reasoning and never be held accountable by anyone, including themselves. 

It isn't that he thinks that ethics can come only from God. It is just that on an atheistic view it is perfectly possible for them to "get away with murder" and avoid punishment, even the internally imposed punishment of guilt feelings, which, it seems, can be overcome.

Particularly interesting is the difference between the outcome of Allen's movies and Crime and Punishment, which can only be explained in terms of the difference between Allen's atheism and Dostoyevsky's Russian Orthodox Christianity.

There is an ugly side to all of this, in that Allen has been accused of his own crimes and misdemeanors. Not murder, of course, but being a pedophile

Of course, Allen has not been proven guilty, but then, neither were his protagonists in the two movies. Did he fall into "everything is permitted" reasoning in his own life? 

Surely, a belief in ultimate moral accountability is hardly the only motive for being moral. More often than we realize, it does deter the evil in the hearts of men (and women). 

Papalinton likes this quote: "If religion cannot restrain evil. it cannot claim effective power for good." M Cohen, American professor of Philosophy and Law.

But I think that in many many, many instances, it does restrain evil. Of course, when it does restrain evil, it doesn't make it onto the evening news.

See also this discussion. .

Monday, March 30, 2015

A problem Bible passage

 When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are.  If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again.  But he is not allowed to sell her to foreigners, since he is the one who broke the contract with her.  And if the slave girl's owner arranges for her to marry his son, he may no longer treat her as a slave girl, but he must treat her as his daughter.  If he himself marries her and then takes another wife, he may not reduce her food or clothing or fail to sleep with her as his wife.  If he fails in any of these three ways, she may leave as a free woman without making any payment.   (Exodus 21:7-11 NLT)

At the risk of giving cannon fodder to resident gnus,  let me ask, how do we interpret this? 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Should it be illegal to quote this passage, on grounds that it's hate speech?

Roman s 1

26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Michael Murray on heavenly silence


Friday, March 27, 2015

Why evolution doesn't select for ethics


Religious motives for being moral

Often people assume that the only religious motives for being moral are those of getting to heaven and avoiding hell. These are often thought to be mercenary motives. But this is not the only kind of religious motivation for being moral. You might want to be moral  because it fulfills the purpose for which God created you.

Thursday, March 26, 2015


It seems to me that what is often the dividing point between physicalists and their opponents has to do whether they find functionalism acceptable. This is a basic description of functionalism.

Do you believe in karma?

Do you think we have good reason to believe in karma? In Hinduism, karma works because that is how people get reincarnated. But so far as this life is concerned, it seems as if people do, for example, get away with murder. They kill people, and it never gets detected, and they benefit from the crime they commit and die of old age in their beds. We might think they are internally tortured by their own crimes, but I would like to see some real evidence that this is always so. In this life, there is crime without punishment. 

Ryan Anderson on why government is involved with marriage


Is it really true that you gotta have a license?

Dogmatism in the philosophy of mind

In a good deal of philosophy of mind over the last 50 years or so, physicalism seems to have been taken as a kind of absolute presupposition. A good example would be Daniel Dennett, who says “before I could trust any of my intuitions about the mind, I had to figure out how the brain could possibly do the mind’s work.” This leads him to treat the brain as a “syntactic engine” that mimics the competence of semantic engines (though where Dennett thinks semantic engines can be found to mimic is, to say the least, very unclear). This strikes me as dogmatic, and leads me to think that, for the most part, materialist philosophers have not so much solved the problems posed by anti-materialist argument such as the argument from reason, but rather have presupposed that there has to be a materialistic solution to such problems. But what if these assumptions are questioned? If they are questioned, then the problems posed by arguments of the kind I have been presenting seem to me to expose a deep incoherence in philosophical naturalism.

The office of the "Devil's Advocate"

This is part of the process of canonizing a saint in the Catholic Church. Here. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Ten arguments against same-sex marriage


Parsons on what would convince him

Bob: For the record Keith Parsons does NOT say that no evidence would convince him. Quite the contrary, he gives what he thinks would have been a convincing scenario. See his scenario at 1:39. It's based on this passage by N. R. Hanson: 

'Next Tuesday morning, just after breakfast, all of us in this one world will be 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, and just then, as all the people of this world look up, the heavens open, and the clouds pull apart, revealing an unbelievably radiant and immense Zeus-like figure towering over us like a hundred Everests. 

He frowns darkly as lighting plays over the features of his Michelangeloid face, and then he points down, at me, and explains for every man, woman and child to hear, "I've had quite enough of your too-clever logic chopping and word-watching in matters of theology. Be assured, Hanson, that I most certainly do exist!" '

Once, after reading a paper Keith wrote arguing against miracles way back in 1985, I asked Keith to assume that I were God, and wanted to know what kind of evidence he would find convincing. He answered by saying "If the galaxies in the Virgo cluster were to spell out the words "Turn or Burn, Parsons This Means You, I'd turn."

Sunday, March 22, 2015

C. S. Lewis on Science and Miracles

CSL “If the laws of Nature are necessary truths, no miracle can break them: but then no miracle needs to break them. It is with them as with the laws of arithmetic. If I put six pennies into a drawer on Monday and six more on Tuesday, the laws decree that… I shall find twelve pennies there on Wednesday. But if the drawer has been robbed I may in fact find only two. Something will have been broken (the lock of the drawer or the laws of England) but the laws of arithmetic will not have been broken. The new situation created by the thief will illustrate the laws of arithmetic just as well as the original situation. But if God comes to work miracles, He comes “like a thief in the night.” Miracle is, from the point of view of the scientist, a form of doctoring, tampering, (if you like) cheating. It introduces a new factor into the situation, namely supernatural force, which the scientist had not reckoned on. He calculates what will happen, or what must have happened on a past occasion, in the belief that the situation, at that point of space and time, is or was A. But if supernatural force has been added, then the situation really is or was AB. And no one knows better than the scientist that AB cannot yield the same result as A. The necessary truth of the laws, far from making it impossible that miracles should occur, makes it certain that if the Supernatural is operating they must occur. For if the natural situation by itself, and the natural situation plus something else, yielded only the same result, it would be then that we should be faced with a lawless and unsystematic universe… This perhaps helps to make a little clearer what the laws of Nature really are… They produce no events: they state the pattern to which every event… must conform, just as the rules of arithmetic state the pattern to which all transactions with money must conform…The divine art of miracle is not an art of suspending the pattern to which events conform but of feeding new events into that pattern… The reason (some) find it intolerable is that they start by taking Nature to be the whole of reality. And they are sure that all reality must be interrelated and consistent. I agree with them. But I think they have mistaken a partial system within reality, namely Nature, for the whole…The great complex event called Nature, and the new particular event introduced into it by the miracle, are related by their common origin in God… By definition, miracles must of course interrupt the usual course of Nature; but if they are real they must, in the very act of so doing, assert all the more the unity and self-consistency of total reality at some deeper level."

It seems to me that you cannot argue that science rules out miracles without begging the question and assuming the causal closure of the physical. The laws of nature tell us what will happen if God doesn't interfere, but it is part of the very idea of a miracle that God does interfere.

Friday, March 20, 2015

All fear is bad? You're kidding

Religion, since it has its source in terror, has dignified certain kinds of fear, and made people think them not disgraceful. In this it has done mankind a great disservice: all fear is bad, and ought to be overcome not by fairy tales, but by courage and rational reflection.- Bertrand Russell

Really? Fear is what saves my life when I am in the street, and a car is coming. 

Consider Monty Python's famous song of Sir Robin:

Bravely bold Sir Robin
Rode forth from Camelot.
He was not afraid to die,
Oh brave Sir Robin.
He was not at all afraid
To be killed in nasty ways.
Brave, brave, brave, brave Sir Robin.
He was not in the least bit scared
To be mashed into a pulp.
Or to have his eyes gouged out,
And his elbows broken.
To have his kneecaps split
And his body burned away,
And his limbs all hacked and mangled
Brave Sir Robin.
His head smashed in
And his heart cut out
And his liver removed
And his bowels unplugged
And his nostrils raped
And his bottom burnt off
And his pen--
"That's... that's enough music for now lads,
*** looks like there's dirty work afoot*** ???."
Brave Sir Robin ran away.
Bravely ran away away.
("I didn't!")
When danger reared it's ugly head,
He bravely turned his tail and fled.
Yes, brave Sir Robin turned about
("I didn't!")
And gallantly he chickened out.
****Bravely**** taking ("I never did!") to his feet,
He beat a very brave retreat.
("all lies!")
Bravest of the braaaave, Sir Robin!
("I never!")

We all agree that the actual Robin is a coward, and that the song is false. But what about the Robin of the song. According to the popular definition of courage, one is courageous if one either lacks fear or ignores danger, and certainly the Robin of the song satisfies that requirement. However, Aristotle's definition of courage suggests that a courageous person lacks (or fails to act upon) fear, or ignores danger, to the extent that it is rational to do so. This courage in facing danger can be defective, in which case the person is cowardly, on the mean, in which case the person is courageous, or excessively, in which case the person is foolhardy, and hence does not possess the virtue of courage.

Notice also that it is possible for someone to "bravely run away," if we accept Aristotle's account of courage, however paradoxical that may seem. The reason Sir Robin is a coward is because the three-headed monster is bickering with itself, and hence cannot possibly be as dangerous as it might appear to be at first. Robin doesn't think long enough to figure that out, instead he "turned his tail and fled."

Here is a discussion of Russell on fear. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

God and Sweden

Sometimes, following Phil Zuckerman, people will say "People can be ethical without God, look at Sweden. They have a low rate of religiosity but also a low violent crime rate."

A Jewish philosopher thinks this is problematic. Here. 

The Craig-Parsons Debate.


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Does Religious Involvement reduce Domestic Violence?

The authors explored the relationship between religious involvement and intimate partner violence by analyzing data from the first wave of the National Survey of Families and Households. They found that: (a) religious involvement is correlated with reduced levels of domestic violence; (b) levels of domestic violence vary by race/ethnicity; (c) the effects of religious involvement on domestic violence vary by race/ethnicity; and (d) religious involvement, specifically church attendance, protects against domestic violence, and this protective effect is stronger for African American men and women and for Hispanic men, groups that, for a variety of reasons, experience elevated risk for this type of violence.

On this issue, Conservapedia's claim is backed up by research. 

Open marriage, and oxymoron?

I wonder if "open marriage," if it doesn't involve a promise to be faithful, isn't an oxymoron. What does marriage mean in such a context? 

Atheism and Suicide

Here.  The Conservapedia has this one right.

Atheistic moral realism

By Erik Wielenberg.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Monday, March 09, 2015

Are Atheists Hypocrites?

This Conservapedia article has a lot of inflammatory content and I do not by any stretch of the imagination agree with all of it. Still, I offer it to generate some discussion.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Is this an orientation?

Much has been made of Richard Carrier's announcement that he is polyamorous. What interests me, however, is that he describes this as "an orientation" and uses the language of coming out. It seems to justify a concern of mine that other "orientations" can ride piggy-back on the rights recently gained for LGBTs and claim rights for themselves. And where does it stop?

From Ed Feser: A Catholic case for the death penalty