Friday, December 19, 2014

Many scientists buy dualism

The scientific study of consciousness indicates
that there is an intimate relationship between
mind and brain.1 However, surveys of
highly educated samples have suggested that
“dualistic” attitudes toward the mind–brain relationship
remain very common.2 These are
revealed, for example, by religious beliefs that
the mind or soul is separable from the body, or
by the conviction that some spiritual part of us
can survive after death. Although some might
expect that nowadays the existence of the supernatural
would be denied by scientists, it has
been reported that about 40% of this population
believe in a personal God or in life after
death, a similar figure to that obtained almost
a hundred years ago.3

Here. 

African economist wants us to stop helping Africa

Here. 

A link to an old reply of mine to Carrier

Here. 

Evidence for God?

How about this healing story?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Why atheist philosophers don't do philosophy of religion: it's simpler than most people think

The reason why most atheist philosophers don't do philosophy of religion is a lot simpler than most of the explanations I have been seeing. A theistic philosopher is developing an understand of what they do believe, so they are going to devote their attention to it. An atheist philosopher is engaged in explaining why he or she doesn't believe something. The truth about reality, as the atheist sees it, has to be developed in some other way. Denial of the existence of God doesn't tell us anything about what does exist, it only indicates what does not exist. Atheists can be strongly naturalistic like Dennett, or very non-naturalistic like Nagel. In general people spend more time on what they think is true than on what they think isn't, unless they think there's a mind virus out there they think they can get rid of. But most atheist philosophers that I have encountered don't think this. They may not think someone like Plantinga is right, but they are happy to see his point of view competently represented. Here's an excellent example (though I realize many atheists thinks Nagel is a traitor).


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Putting words into a person's mouth

In this post, a student drops a class by a philosophy instructor who identifies himself as a theist, but says that God can neither be proven or disproven. The student assumes that the teacher was claiming that it follows from the fact that he believes in God but thinks it unprovable, that he believes in God because he considers the negative to be unprovable. But he said no such thing, or at least is not reported as saying any such thing. 

I wrote in response:

Let's see, the professor believes A) that God exists, and B) one cannot either prove or disprove that God exists. He never said B therefore A, that I can see.
I take it that the professor does not accept strong rationalism, which is defined as follows:
"Lets start on one end of the spectrum, with strong rationalism. It proposes that “in order for a religious belief system to be properly and rationally accepted, it must be possible to prove that the belief system is true.” By ‘prove’ it is meant that it is possible to show that a belief is true, in a way that is convincing to any intelligent person. "
But do we expect this level of proof with respect to other beliefs? It seems to me that I can be reasonable in thinking that a lot of things are true even if not everyone ought to believe it. I think that Hillary Clinton is more likely than not to win the 2016 Democratic nomination for President, but if someone assessed the evidence differently, I wouldn't necessarily think they were being irrational. 

Actually the definition of strong rationalism should be altered a little, because what it actually says is that it ought to be convincing to all intelligent persons. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Judicial Activism

It is interesting that when the SCOTUS came up with things like Roe. v. Wade and Miranda v. Arizona, conservatives complained about judicial activism. Now with Citizens United, the liberals are complaining about it. 

Thom Hartmann, a liberal talk show host, wants to get rid of judicial review completely.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Should torture killers be tortured? Or are we coddling murderers?

Does a person who tortures someone to death deserve to be tortured to death? If not, then the killer gets something he denied his victim, a painless death?

Am I a supernaturalist?

Without a good definition of the supernatural it's going to be awfully difficult to prove any cases. In fact, I just say I believe in God et al., but depending on how you define the supernatural, I am not sure I believe that supernatural entities exist. I can imagine saying that God, angels, and souls all exist, but that science just hasn't developed enough to analyze and predict the activities of these entities. So they are supernatural from the standpoint of present science, but then so are lots of things that science will someday discover. But since we don't know what "ultimate completed future science" will include we can't say for sure whether these entities are natural or supernatural. 

If science has to screen certain entities out because they are by definition beyond the competence of science to analyze, then it is a boring result that science hasn't found evidence for them. Science, on that view, can't either support of deny their existence. On the other hand, if it is within the competence of science to show that these entities do not exist (as in Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a World Without Design), then if someone has offers evidence for something like God, then it can't be thrown out of court a la Judge Jones because science has to stick to the natural and not the supernatural. 

As the Statler Brothers say, you can't have your Kate and Edith too. 

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Notes on the Courtier's Reply

In response to the Skeptic Zone here.

The Courtier's Reply is a term that has come to be used for the response to the
Courtier's Reply, and so you are right to say that it might be more proper to call it the Courtier's Reply Reply, but that gets awkward to say.


Here is the problem. Sure, I don't have to understand the difference between, let's say, Sunni and Shiite Islam if my disagreement with Islam has primarily to do with whether I believe that Allah, through the Angel Gabriel, dictated the Qu'ran to Muhammad in Arabic. Both Sunnis and Shiites agree on this, and the question of how the succession in the Caliphate should have gone is not relevant to the fundamental issue between myself and Muslims of either stripe.



On the other hand, if something is relevant to the reasons why one believes that Muhammad did receive this revelation, then I had better understand the reasons Muslims have for believing this I am going to seem pretty ignorant to my Muslim interlocutors. I need to know what their best reasons are. Or, I should at least show that I have tried to understand it. A person's time is limited, so I could reject Islam without this kind of information. But if I want to write The Muslim Delusion, then I need to know what the best Muslim scholars have to offer on why they think Islam is true. If I write a book that makes no attempt to understand this, then they have every right to complain that I am arguing from a position of ignorance, even if Islam is delusional.

When you do something like say that all forms of the Cosmological Argument fail to the "Who made God" question, there are some obvious ways that argument defenders have of responding to this, and you ought to know what those are and rebut them.

Now, I think there is further discussion which might develop the "Who made God" response to more sophisticated version of the Cosmological Arguments. For example, some people argue that if there was a time prior to the beginning of the universe, the causal principle should apply that whatever begins to exist must have a cause, but if there was no prior time, and time began at the Big Bang, then the causal principle should not be applied.  But a popular kind of response to arguments like Aquinas's and Craig's, sometimes given in intro philosophy classes, makes it seem as if they somehow didn't think to ask the question "Who made God," a question asked by most grade school children.

On the famous Trilemma argument, he gives a two paragraph rebuttal the completely ignores a wide range of arguments on both sides. John Beversluis wrote a chapter in his revised C. S. Lewis and the Search for Rational Religion, which he considers to be an effective take-down of the argument, but in a footnote criticizes as too quick and too easy Hitchens's three-paragraph refutation. I'm sure he would say the same thing about Dawkins's two paragraphs.

Now Dawkins has a quadrilemma concerning those who believe in God, (or, as he puts it, don't believe in evolution) and that is that they are either ignorant, stupid, insane, or wicked. But I think he think that theism is really a stupid position.

So, if Dawkins has reasons for rejecting theism in general, then, sure, he shouldn't be expected to know understand, for example, the filioque controversy about the procession of the Holy Spirit. But he should be expected to understand, or at least make an effort to understand the reasons why someone might think that the evidence for God is reasonably good, or that it can be justified as a properly basic belief.

Another example: Dawkins assumes that if believers just believe on tradition and pay no attention to evidence. Reading him, you would never guess that one of the most popular books on Christianity is Josh McDowell's book Evidence that Demands a Verdict, or that there is another book called Faith Founded on Fact. Now, these people may be all wrong, and it could be that they don't have good evidence, but a well-informed anti-apologist should be aware that there are Christians out there who think the evidence favors them.

Myers' presentation of the Courtier's reply appears stupid because he takes discussions that take place on the assumption that the emperor is clothed as a basis for answering the question of whether or not he is clothed, when in fact he appears naked. But if there are books offering reasons for thinking that the emperor is really clothed, then it is fair to expect someone defending the emperor's nudity to consider them.

I'm sure Dawkins is an intelligent person, but my complaint is that he projects and impression that he doesn't have to bother to understand his opponents in order to attack them. He has I believe an earned reputation for lucid explanations of Darwinian biology, but the lack of effort to understand the people he is criticizing, (and his excuses for making no such effort), means that if anyone is going to talk me out of my religious beliefs, it won't be him.