Saturday, May 30, 2015

Marriage legal and moral

Some people would argue for a distinction between the legal acceptability of same-sex marriage and its moral acceptability. Consider the following case: a man leaves his wife and three kids, and runs off with a Playboy bunny half his age. He divorces his wife, and goes down to the courthouse to get a license to marry his new girlfriend. The courthouse won't ask any questions about whether he was moral or not in starting this relationship which began as an adulterous affair. They just check to see if his divorce is final, and if it is, they issue the marriage license. But if a photographer who knew about how the relationship starter, and who believes in the Seventh Commandment (Thou shalt not commit adultery) was asked to photograph the wedding, would such a photographer be reasonable in saying "I recognize that you are getting married legally, but I can't be part of the celebration of your new union, given what I know about how you got together. Sorry, please find another photographer." 

(Interestingly enough, the above case seems to be one of the stronger reasons in support of same-sex marriage, since it points out that in heterosexual cases like this one, the government doesn't hand out licenses based on what they perceive to be moral or not, either on religious grounds or on any other grounds). 

If that is reasonable, then could someone who object morally to a same-sex marriage do the same thing, since they are being asked, really, to be part of the celebration of something they don't feel right about celebrating? 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The laws of logic and the laws of physics

To reason is to hold a belief governed by logical relations and logical laws. But matter is governed by the laws of physics, not the laws of logic. A entailing B, or A's being evidence for B, has to at least some of the time be causally responsible for S's believing B. But if the laws of physics determine everything, the laws of logic and evidence are inoperative in the formation of belief. How are the laws of logic, laws that are not spatiotemorally local, have anything to do with the formation of beliefs, when all the causes of what anyone believes are spatiotemporally local?
Attempts to "naturalize" the mind always fudge categories.
Any attempt to reduce intentionality to something nonmental will always fail because it leaves out intentionality. Suppose for example that you had a perfect causal account of the belief that water is wet. This account is given by stating the set of causal relations in which a system stands to water and to wetness and these relations are entirely specified without any mental component. The problem is obvious: a system could have all those relations and still not believe that water is wet. This is just an extension of the Chinese Room argument, but the moral it points to is general: You cannot reduce intentional content (or pains, or "qualia") to something else, because if you did they would be something else, and it is not something else." (Searle, Rediscovery p. 51).

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


Some claim that Christians uncritically accept their faith. When I hear this, I think, "Have you ever heard of adolescence?"

Apparently even Sean McDowell, Josh's son, was far from uncritical.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The argument against ridicule

Loftus completely ignores my argument for what I said, which has to do with the principle of charity. An argument for something, if it is done right, does the best it can to state the other side's position as fairly as possible, and to even to make a better case for the opposing view than even its advocates make before launching the attack against it.
The Principle of Charity is a methodological presumption made in seeking to understand a point of view whereby we seek to understand that view in its strongest, most persuasive form before subjecting the view to evaluation.
Ridicule, on the other hand, seeks to present the opposing view in the most negative light possible before attacking it. How can you be charitable and ridicule at the same time?

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Counting the indifferent

May I point out one other basic issue. Of course atheists are going to come out better if they claim all the people who are religiously indifferent. And I think those people constitute the vast majority of the "nones" in our society. It's like claiming all the babies as atheists, which is what I have seen done. Next thing you know they'll be claiming my cats. Even Hemant Mehta spoke out against that one. Most people who are nonreligious are not nonreligious as a result of critical reflection. In fact, a lot of them have some godish belief like the belief in a "force out there." (May the Force be with you).

Friday, May 15, 2015

Why Ridicule and Debate don't mix

JWL: Hey Vic, what exactly is wrong with doing everything I can to disabuse Christians of their faith when I know that 1) their faith is terribly wrong, and 2) their faith is harmful for our future?

All one has to do is have the passion I do and share 1 and 2 above.

You don't like this? So noted. It's the same organized disrespect the Church has handed out to anyone who disagreed WITHOUT THE TORTURE AND VIOLENCE TO COMPEL BELIEF! Ours is based on knowledge plus persuasion, which includes--at times--ridicule, just as we ridicule the KKK and believers in Zeus.


Oh, and complaining about those who comment on my blog smacks of the "You Too" and the "guilt by association" fallacy

VR: No John. If I believe that faith is right, and that it is beneficial to the future of those who believe, there are still certain things that I ought not to do to promote it. I follow Lactantius on this:

"Religion being a matter of the will, it cannot be forced on anyone; in this matter it is better to employ words than blows [verbis melius quam verberibus res agenda est]. Of what use is cruelty? What has the rack to do with piety? Surely there is no connection between truth and violence, between justice and cruelty . . . . It is true that nothing is so important as religion, and one must defend it at any cost [summa vi] . . . It is true that it must be protected, but by dying for it, not by killing others; by long-suffering, not by violence; by faith, not by crime. If you attempt to defend religion with bloodshed and torture, what you do is not defense, but desecration and insult. For nothing is so intrinsically a matter of free will as religion. (Divine Institutes V:20)"

Yes, I am saying you too. I am saying that Christians have the same reasons for not going onto your site as "thoughtful atheists" might have for going onto mine. Only, in my estimation, it's far worse, because the disrespect is a strategy, and the ad hominems are far worse. Unlikes Jeff Lowder, You are in no position to lecture people on my site for their manners. You asked me once to ban Crude. What if I told you I wouldn't consider doing that unless you banned Articulett and Sir Russ?

You can debate and discuss, or you can use other means. But debate and discussion involve following certain rules, in particular, the principle of charity. So some people can debate and discuss, and some people can ridicule, but they don't mix, if not in theory at least in practice, because argument requires the principle of charity and ridicule precludes it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A softball question

I always thought that the question of whether it is possible to do the right thing if there is no God is kind of a softball question. Of course you can, since we have social motives for moral behavior. A more interesting question is whether anyone is going to be want to be moral if a) we lack sympathy for other people and b) we have nothing to gain socially from doing the right thing. 

Naturalism or not?

In response to what Jeff was asking let me make some clarification of my views.

To me, naturalism is not a transparent idea by any stretch of the imagination. What is it that makes something "natural?" I could say that I was a naturalist, but that my naturalism includes a lot of things most naturalists don't believe in, such as a psychons (which used to be called souls), angelons (which used to be called angels, and one triune theon, who used to be called God. The guy that directed my doctoral dissertation once came up with the idea that the "physical" or " is just what scientific theory quantifies over, some scientific theories quantify over God, therefore that would make God physical, (and therefore natural).

Is location in space and time sufficient to make something natural or physical? Well, I think it likely that the soul has a location, so does that make the soul physical? Or maybe the soul is some different kind of physical particle that science hasn't discovered yet. Surely science hasn't found everything, so we can't say that all that exists is what science has found already.

My concept of what is required for naturalism is as follows:

1. The base level, whether we call it natural, material, or physical, is causally closed.
2. Everything above that level supervenes on the physical/material/natural.
3. Physics is mechanistic. The base level lacks intentionality, purpose, normativity, and subjectivity.

An interesting question is whether Thomas Nagel comes out as a naturalist on this model. He's not a theist, be he does want to put the mental on the ground floor of reality, so he wouldn't qualify on my view. But he's an atheist. (A real one). I would recommend J. P. Moreland's response in Philosophia Christi to Mind and Cosmos.

Hitchens vs. D'Souza on Is Christianity the Problem


Monday, May 11, 2015

Organized Disrespect

John, do you actually read your combox? When I got into the David Wood discussion, I was called intellectually dishonest, a Liar-4-Jezus, and then we get this gem from Sir Russ:

You, Victor, are one of the people doing evil things due to religion. He said that I was one of the people who put meat on the bones of the claim that philosophy is dead.

And how about this one?

What did your PhD actually prepare you for? To ignore the world around you while you lie to perpetuate ignorance and superstition?

And he gets all sorts of applause when he says things like this? Some called it his finest work.

And you complain about Ilion???? I didn't think it was possible to make Ilion look like Miss Manners, but I see it done every day on Debunking Christianity.

And it's worse than this. This isn't an accident. You advocate ridicule, you support doing more than just criticizing religious arguments, you advocate philosophy departments taking philosophy of religion out of their curriculum. You don't want to criticize religious beliefs, you want them marginalized, so that if people hold them it's OK, so long as they shut up about it and keep it out of the public square.

This goes beyond not being nice. It is a programme, instigated by Dawkins in his TED speech in 2002, of what I call organized disrespect. All sorts of ridicule can be done in gentle and humorous ways which is not particularly offensive, and is not designed to express contempt.;  I even ridiculed myself with a Dennett Lexicon entry:

reppert v. To enhance the reputation of a popular apologist by "finding" sophisticated arguments in his writings. "Who are they going to reppert next, Francis Schaeffer, or Josh McDowell?"

But Dawkins (and you follow him on this) advocates "sharpening barbs so that they really hurt." It is ridicule designed as propaganda to persuade without real argumentation. It is an attitude that makes real and honest exploration of our religious disagreements an impossibility. This is not honest and passionate debate, this is the behavior of a schoolyard bully. And I think reasonable atheists should see it for what it is. In the course of honest debate, particularly where there is such passionate interest on both sides, people can lose their tempers and be rude. Or they can be trigger-happy in their charges of intellectual dishonesty. But this is a bridge further, and it needs to be identified for what it is. Christians should realize that in dealing with this sort of thing, that their opponents do NOT want to meet them fair and square on a level playing field.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Do you believe in magic

  • I don't believe that reason could arise from nonreason, therefore I think that reason is at the foundation of the universe. According to the naturalistic view, the normative arises from the nonnormative, the logical arises from the nonlogical, the universe exists without an explanation for its existence even though it looks contingent as all heck, the universe was finely tuned for intelligent life, purposes arise where none existed before, consciousness comes from a lack of consciousness. The very foundations of science don't even seem possible in the irrational universe that atheists believe in. Even the very fact that our thoughts are about something else is something that can't be captured by basic physics. It has always seemed to me that the atheists, not the theists, are the ones who believe in magic.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Loftus on David Wood's Conversion Story


I guess if you don't believe there is a God, the redemptive power of God to convert the soul needs to be doubted as well.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

The truth will set you free, or will it destroy you?

Christianity promises that the truth will set you free, of course claiming that Christianity is the truth. Can atheists claim the same thing? Isn't it at least possible that, even on the assumption that atheism is true, the truth of atheism could destroy a person, or every person? I can easily imagine thinking both that atheism is true, and that I hope most people don't find out that it is. 

Atheism had nothing to do with it? That's not what they said: Wurmbrand's Tormentors and atheism

This is from Richard Wurmbrand's Tortured for Christ. 

The cruelty of atheism is hard to believe when man has no faith in the reward of good or the punishment of evil. There is no reason to be human. There is no restraint from the depths of evil which is in man. The Communist torturers often said, 'There is no God, no hereafter, no punishment for evil. We can do what we wish.' I have heard one torturer even say, 'I thank God, in whom I don't believe, that I have lived to this hour when I can express all the evil in my heart.' He expressed it in unbelievable brutality and torture inflected on prisoners.8

There are moral pits that Christians can fall into. Here is a Chesterton Father Brown story that describes one. But there is the "everything is permitted" moral pit that requires atheism. And it is a deep one. It is far from the case that atheists must fall into it. But I think it delusional to deny its existence, or to deny that it was partly responsible for the horrors that took place behind the iron curtain.