Friday, December 30, 2016

The case against Napoleon

SP: That alleged event is not verifiable in a scientific sense or even an historic sense. That event is not repeatable, nor was it recorded by scientific instrumentation, nor do we have such scientific evidence for analogous events that would at least make your assertion scientifically plausible.

VR: Couldn't the same argument be made against, say, the Battle of Waterloo? 


I like the Christian Life

The Louvin Brothers' song. Perfect Christian camp song, covered by the Byrds.

My buddies tell me that I should've waited
They say I'm missing a whole world of fun
But I still love them and I sing with pride
I like the Christian life

I won't lose a friend by heeding God's call
For what is a friend who'd want you to fall
Others find pleasure in things I despise
I like the Christian life

My buddies shun me since I turned to Jesus
They say I'm missing a whole world of fun
I live without them and walk in the light
I like the Christian life

I won't lose a friend by heeding God's call
For what is a friend who'd want you to fall
Others find pleasure in things I despise

I like the Christian life
I like the Christian life

The reality of Christmas

We have just passed the Christmas holiday, but this is still of interest. 

By the way, I turn 63 today. 

HT: Bob Prokop. 

Friday, December 23, 2016


You think that my denial of Sweden is an actual claim of some kind, that it's a belief. But it isn't. It's a non-belief. There's nothing I need to explain–rather, I'm talking about something I lack, namely a belief in Sweden, so I don't need to give any evidence for it.

I don't have to provide evidence for my non-belief in Atlantis, El Dorado, Shangri-La, or the Customer Support Department at American Airlines, and nor need I for my non-belief in Sweden. I'm not making a claim of any kind–in fact, just the opposite: I'm claimingnothing. I'm merely rejecting one your  beliefs, your belief in Sweden. Andy Bannister, The Atheist Who Didn't Exist (Monarch Books, 2015), 31-32.

HT: Steve Hays


Defined here. 

Could that be motivating some people? Naah.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Why allow same sex marriage or mixed race marriage?

Assuming atheism, I see no good argument against miscegenation laws. Jefferson said that we were endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights, and if we have no creator, then there are no inalienable rights. A right exists just in case there is a moral fact that requiring those with the biggest guns from exercise power over those lacking the biggest guns. However, if atheism, (or at least materialistic atheism) is true, then there are no such moral facts, and there is no obligation on the people with the biggest guns from disallowing mixed marriages if they so prefer. Thus, if the government under Trump wants to make America great again by making America white again, and part of that operation is to prevent mixed marriages in order to maintain racial purity, there is no moral fact that obligates them not to do so. Similarly if the people with the biggest guns like gay people then they will give them marriage licenses, and if not then not.

On the other hand, if there is a God, then God may have revealed to us the basis of the doctrine of human equality, then that is another matter. The concept of race has no basis in Scripture, and there is no religious reason at least in the Judeo-Christian tradition for treating people of different races differently and preventing intermarriage. The only ethnic identity God seems to care about in the Bible is the lineage of Israel, and the lineage of David, and in Judaism and Christianity that is best defined in terms of a special mission, not a special privilege. There was concern about intermarriage for fear of the Jewish people falling into idolatry, but that is not an issue for miscegenation. 

On the other hand, in that context, we have to ask whether God intends for same-sex couples to marry.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

HItler: Christian, atheist or neither

Debated here. 

A question for Peter Singer

I once told an exterminator who came to our house that he was a mass murderer. But if all animals are equal, is that still a joke? 

Is the case for human equality religious?

Some argue that religious arguments should be excluded from public policy debate. But what happens when we do that?

Thomas Jefferson used a religious argument to argue for human rights, he said that those rights were endowed by our creator and that we were created equal. This obviously won't work if there is no God, since we weren't created, and therefore we could not have been created equal. Is it possible that the very principle of human equality itself, which is the basis for marriage equality, is based on a religious argument, and if you reject all religious arguments, you undercut the case for all forms of equality, including marriage equality.

Is it a consequence of atheism that the people with the biggest guns are entitled to determine who has what rights?

It can be replied that even though the concept of human equality had a religious source to begin with, we have discovered that the doctrine of human equality works out best for humans, so even if we discover that we got here by evolution and not creation, we should still respect human equality.  But how persuasive is that for people who have power and don't want to relinquish it?

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Marriage, hookups, and shackups

Perhaps we need to clarify what calling something a marriage is. To even have marriage, gay or otherwise, you have to say that this is something they are doing over and above hooking up and shacking up.

Different groups within society can issue the status of marriage, and they will do so based on their own religious convictions. The Southern Baptist Church will use different criteria from the Metropolitan Community Church.

The fact that we have marriage licenses suggests that the government has an interest in identifying and sponsoring relationships that have this status. But what, exactly, is that interest? And should there be such an interest? That is, I think, the proper focus of the gay marriage debate.

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Nothing Fails Like Prayer Argument: a rebuttal

This is a statistical analysis of what I like to call the Nothing Fails Like Prayer argument.

Believer and unbeliever alike might well pause to reflect at this point on where this leaves us. Regarding God anthropomorphically for the moment, it appears that he has been put in a no-win situation. If he acts in answer to experimental prayer, he is denying his nature by becoming the tool of humans; if he fails to act he is judged to be non-existent!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The "woman's body" argument on abortion, and the village in your left arm

I think the slogan, "A woman has the right to do as she pleases with her own body, is flawed.
What if a village of tiny people were housed in your left arm. The village makes your arm itch sometimes. Would you have the right to wipe it out because, after all, it is housed in your body?

Monday, December 12, 2016

Chesterton on pseudo-objectivity

"An open mind is really a mark of foolishness, like an open mouth. Mouths and minds were made to shut; they were made to open only in order to shut. In direct connection with this question of mythology and human belief the point may roughly be put thus: An extraordinary idea has arisen that the best critic of religious institutions is the man who talks coldly about religion. Nobody supposes that the best critic of music is the man who talks coldly about music. Within reasonable bounds, the more excited the musician is about music, the more he is likely to be right about it. Nobody thinks a man a correct judge of poetry because he looks down on poems. But there is an idea that a man is a correct judge of religion because he looks down on religions. Now, folklore and primitive faiths, and all such things are of the nature of music and poetry in this respect — that the actual language and symbols they employ require not only an understanding, they require what the Bible very finely calls an understanding heart. You must be a little moved in your emotions even to understand them at all; you must have a heart in order to make head or tail of them. Consequently, whenever I hear on these occasions that beliefs are being discussed scientifically and calmly, I know that they are being discussed wrong. Even a false religion is too genuine a thing to be discussed calmly." ~G.K. Chesterton'IlllustratedLondon News,' 10 October 1908.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Dawkins' argument from simplicity

What Dawkins argues is that a real explanation explains that which is more complex in terms of that which is simpler. Explanations of anything in terms of God necessarily explains things in terms of that which is still more complex, and so such explanations are nonstarters, since they fail to explain the more complex in terms of the less complex.

The logic of this position is that evidence for God is impossible, for if there were evidence of God, it would provide us with an explanation of the more complex in terms of the less complex. But this is impossible by definition. The search for such evidence is doomed at the start.

Are wedding providers who refuse to serve same-sex weddings expected to lie?

They may not be refusing because they are gay. They may be refusing because they have to put speech on their wedding products which state that that which is being celebrated is a marriage, when they firmly believe it is not a marriage. In other words, they are objecting to being asked to lie.

This hinges on a distinction between providing a product, in which case the protected status of gay people can be applied, and providing speech, in which case the right to free speech should outweigh concerns of nondiscrimination.

Argument from the Laws of Logic for God


A paper by James Anderson and Greg Welty.

Why do laws of logic exist? They are not local to any particular place or time, yet they apply to all of reality. Why do they exist?

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Can the pro-choice candidate be the pro-life vote?

But here the choice is between two candidates, one who supports choice restrictions, but also has supported workplace practices that punish women for remaining pregnant while working and carrying their pregnancies to term. You have another candidate who opposes choice restrictions but has strongly supported efforts that keep women from being punished in the workplace for carrying their pregnancies to term. If you don't want to see abortions taking place, which of these candidates do you vote for? I would argue that, in a case like this, it is actually more pro-life to vote pro-choice. Choice is awfully hard to restrict given the fact that it is underwritten by a Supreme Court decision of almost 44 years standing. You either have to change the Court and get it overturned (which three pro-life presidents tried to do and failed), and even there all you do is throw it back to the states. Are the states going to end up with laws restricting or eliminating abortion? I have serious doubts about that. I think if Roe were overturned it would save two fetuses in the state of Mississippi.  Or, do we work on creating legislation that supports women who want to carry their pregnancies to term but might be pressured by economic fears into aborting? 

I think the latter approach, combined with a strong emphasis on the fact that there the legal possibility of choice does NOT entail moral acceptability, is the best approach to take if you want to see as few abortions as possible. Oh, and you can pray to end abortion.

The case against assisted suicide

Does the legality of assisted suicide lead health insurance companies to push it and use it an excuse to deny payment for end of life care? That has always been my biggest worry about it.
Apparently yes. 

Friday, December 09, 2016

Do Christian views discriminate against gay people?

Are the religious views on homosexuality straightforwardly discriminatory? It is not clear to me that they are. Being a same-sex attracted person is no problem for many of them, it is just that, on their view, it is wrong for such persons to pursue intimate relationships. One celibate gay man is a leading biblical studies professor at a conservative Christian college.

Some people, it seems, can't help being attracted, and only attracted to little boys. They shouldn't be discriminated against if they are this way, unless, of course, they pursue intimate relationships in accordance with their orientation. But the pursuit is an action, not a fact about them that cannot be changed.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Does secularism undermine the foundations of same-sex marriage?

 Ironically, I think that while religion provides most of the arguments against gay marriage, it also provides the foundation for the central argument for it. Jefferson says we were endowed BY OUR CREATOR with certain inalienable rights, which means that even if the people with the biggest guns want to deny us those rights, there is an authority above possession of the biggest guns that tells us that rights should not be violated, even if they are violated. However, if we were just spat up by evolution as opposed to created, then the idea that the people with the biggest guns should respect the rights of gay people even if they don't like them goes by the boards. Might does not make right, but might does what it wants to. Secularism undermines the religious arguments for gay marriage, but it also undermines the best argument for it, which is the doctrine of human equality.

The difference between ID and creationism

The difference between ID and creationism isn't so much what they believe (although in ID there is no attempt to underwrite biblical literalism scientifically), but rather concerns what science can show. There is a difference between something being created and being designed. Plato believe that the natural world showed signs of design, but his philosophy made the Demiurge (his designer) only a designer, and not the creator of the basic stuff of the world. The idea is that we have ways of figuring out if things are designed (think about the way we decide whether someone is cheating at cards--- was the arrangement of cards you got from the deck designed or not designed by the dealer), and if we follow those rules, you get a positive result for design in nature. 

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Trump and hopes for the right to life

People who had pro-life motives for supporting Trump are putting the hopes for fetal lives in the hands of someone who thinks that pregnancy is "an inconvenience for a person running a business." If woman thinks her boss might say "you're fired" if he finds out she's pregnant, where do  you think she is likely to go?

One easy logical step

One element of New Atheism that strikes me as aggressive is Dawkins' claim that religious believers who present their religious beliefs as true to their children are abusing them. Usually when people make charges of child abuse, they expect law enforcement to stop child abusers from continuing to do so, sometimes by removing the child from the home. Dawkins hasn't suggested that, but that seems an easy logical step. 

What is wrong with being a bigot?

Is opposition to bigotry itself religiously based? If we were not created, we were not created equal, and therefore do not have any 'inalienable" rights except what the people with the biggest guns see fit to give us.

Thus wedding providers who don't serve gay weddings can only be criticized if they are violated their God-given rights. But either there are no God given rights, in which case there is no case for gay marriage, or they were given those rights by God. But, based on the possible sources of revelation we have, is it plausible to say that God granted gay people the right to marry?

Craig's Video on the Kalam Cosmological Argument


Tuesday, December 06, 2016

How do we define evidence?

How do we define evidence? How do we define evidence? I maintain the x is evidence for y just in case x is more likely to exist if y is true than if y is not true. And on that assumption, there is lots of evidence on both sides, and we have to decide which side is sufficient. But others define evidence differently. 

Why I am for legalizing murder in some cases

I am inclined to think that there is there are moral issues that can't be fully dealt with by the law, and abortion is one of those issues. The law can act where were have enough consensus to put violators in jail. But if we admit that something isn't so clearly wrong that we should be putting someone in jail who does it doesn't mean that it's just OK.

People are also dealing with these questions from different world-views, religious and nonreligious, and there are citizens representing many groups, all of whom are good citizens of our country. There are many tools of moral persuasion that pro-lifers de-emphasize because they want a legal solution. But three pro-life Presidents have tried and failed to change the Supreme Court so as to be overturn Roe. The chances that a fourth will succeed seems slim to me.

I guess that means I believe in legalizing murder in some cases. Oh well.

Monday, December 05, 2016

C. S. Lewis on homosexuality and the Special Sin Heresy

In taking what we can from C. S. Lewis with respect to the current issues concerning homosexuality and marriage equality, I think there are two points that are raise caution flags for the traditionalist, and one that I think benefit the traditionalist. Here is one of the caution flags: 

Here’s a fellow, you say, who used to come before us as a moral and religious writer, and now, if you please, he’s written a whole chapter describing his old school as a very furnace of impure loves without one word on the heinousness of the sin. But there are two reasons. One you shall hear before this chapter ends. The other is that, as I have said, the sin in question is one of the two (gambling is the other) which I have never been tempted to commit. I will not indulge in futile philippics against enemies I never met in battle.
(“This means, then, that all the other vices you have so largely written about…” Well, yes, it does, and more’s the pity; but it’s nothing to our purpose at the moment.)
Many Christians commit the mistake I like to call the Special Sin thesis, that homosexuality, as opposed to other sins like carelessness in divorce, pornography, or even greed and exploitation of the poor, is a sin in its own special category of wickedness, which, unlike other sins, brings down the wrath of God. I think this is heretical. There are no special sins. 
Lewis goes on: 
The Wyvernians seem to me in retrospect to have been the least spontaneous, in that sense the least boyish, society I have ever known. It would perhaps not be too much to say that in some boys’ lives everything was calculated to the great end of advancement. For this games were played; for this clothes, friends, amusements, and vices were chosen.
And that is why I cannot give pederasty anything like a first place among the evils of the Coll. There is much hypocrisy on this theme. People commonly talk as if every other evil were more tolerable than this. But why? Because those of us who do not share the vice feel for it a certain nausea, as we do, say, for necrophily? I think that of very little relevance to moral judgment. Because it produces permanent perversion? But there is very little evidence that it does. The Bloods would have preferred girls to boys if they could have come by them; when, at a later age, girls were obtainable, they probably took them. Is it then on Christian grounds? But how many of those who fulminate on the matter are in fact Christians? And what Christian, in a society as worldly and cruel as that of Wyvern, would pick out the carnal sins for special reprobation? Cruelty is surely more evil than lust and the World at least as dangerous as the Flesh. The real reason for all the pother is, in my opinion, neither Christian nor ethical. We attack this vice not because it is the worst but because it is, by adult standards, the most disreputable and unmentionable, and happens also to be a crime in English law. The world may lead you only to Hell; but sodomy may lead you to jail and create a scandal, and lose you your job. The World, to do it justice, seldom does that.
If those of us who have known a school like Wyvern dared to speak the truth, we should have to say that pederasty, however great an evil in itself, was, in that time and place, the only foothold or cranny left for certain good things. It was the only counterpoise to the social struggle; the one oasis (though green only with weeds and moist only with fetid water) in the burning desert of competitive ambition. In his unnatural love affairs, and perhaps only there, the Blood went a little out of himself, forgot for a few hours that he was One of the Most Important People There Are. It softens the picture. A perversion was the only chink left through which something spontaneous and uncalculating could creep in. Plato was right after all. Eros, turned upside down, blackened, distorted, and filthy, still bore the traces of his divinity.
Long before the days of the marriage equality movement, I taught Contemporary Moral Issues courses at Northern Illinois University. I had students there with Catholic backgrounds, who had largely abandoned their Catholic beliefs, at least where sexual issues were concerned, except when it came to homosexuality. They hoped to hold on to some semblance of righteousness because, while they certainly weren't good Catholics in their conduct, at least they weren't homosexuals. 

Beware of stereotyping atheists

I found this statement interesting:
First, the dogmatic nature of this position is evident to anyone who has actually argued with an atheist. After arguing with hundreds of atheists, I have yet to encounter one who will not back off the extreme nature of this dogmatic posture. That is, I cannot find an atheist who argues as follows:
I agree there is some evidence for theism, enough such that theism can be considered a reasonable position. However, I find this evidence to be unconvincing and weak, thus I remain an atheist.
But in this piece by Jeff Lowder, he takes the exact position you say atheists never take.
There are real “old atheists” out there. The gnus just yell louder.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

A Counterintuitive Answer

From Scott Klusendorf's The Vanishing Pro-Life  Apologist. 

Put differently; is there any reasonable person in America today who would argue that while he personally opposed the enslavement of blacks, he wouldn’t oppose the legal right of his neighbor to own one if he so chose? In fact, when people tell me they personally oppose abortion but think it should be legal anyway, I ask a simple question to audit their core beliefs about the unborn. I ask why they personally oppose abortion. Nearly always, the response is, “I oppose it because it kills a baby,” at which point I merely repeat their own words. “Let me see if I’ve got this straight: You say you oppose abortion because it kills a baby, but you think it should be legal to kill babies?”

But how does a pro-life apologist answer a straightforward "yes" here. Yes, it's wrong to kill babies, yes, it's equally wrong to make laws against killing babies under these circumstances.

Does the prolife apologist have anything more than intuition here?

Friday, December 02, 2016

A hard case on abortion

Let's try the following case. A woman has a toddler, and conceives again. At this point, her husband becomes abusive, and she feels it necessary to leave her husband and take the toddler. She has a job, and can barely make it with her toddler. But having two children would break the bank and make it impossible to even care for her one child. Can it be justified for her to abort her fetus in order to make sure she can care for her toddler? 

Abortion laws around the world