Friday, May 06, 2016

Peter Boghossian, God is Not Dead, and the Establishment Clause

From MCFA: 

“To prevent doxastic closure it’s also important to read the work of noted apologists. The only two I’d suggest are Alvin Plantinga and William Lane Craig, though I’d urge you not to buy their books; their projects don’t need your support. If you must buy one of their books buy it used and support a local bookstore, this way the author doesn’t receive any royalties.” (Kindle Locations 3419-3421).

Remember the debate surrounding God's not Dead? I watched the movie and for the most part I didn't care for it, because most real atheist professors don't act like that atheist professor in the movie, who tries to get the class to sign an atheist statement in order to avoid dealing with the problem of God in the course. Even the most virulently anti-religious philosophy professors that I have encountered (and I have encountered a few) don't act like this, and it's a mistake to tell Christians that this is what they should expect in philosophy courses, including those taught by staunch atheists. 

But people like Boghossian, I am afraid, make God is not Dead look realistic. 

What is more, I do think the fictional professor in God is not Dead DOES violate the Establishment Clause, because he puts requirements for passing the course on believing students that he doesn't put on nonbelieving students. 

Boghossian's course, I think, also violates the clause. That is because while he presents arguments against his own view, he provides a message in required course material that he, the professor, considers their arguments so unworthy of being taken seriously that students shouldn't provide royalties to the authors by buying their books. A teacher can say what he thinks in class so long as he also says there are intelligent people who think the opposite, and in the last analysis it is their responsibility to decide the issue for themselves. 

As Randal Rauser says 

If this really is his advice, then I must say it is absolutely terrible advice. Simply reading or listening to somebody you disagree with doesn’t prevent cognitive closure. The only way to do that is to read your opponents with charity. Needless to say, when you preface the advice to read somebody with the proviso that their works are so bad (and harmful) that you ought never pay money for the books if possible, you have undermined any hope in your reader of engaging their works with charity.

If you do this on the public dime, then you are shoving your religious views down the throats of your students, and the fact that atheism is not a religion in some other important sense does not exempt you from the force of the Establishment Clause.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Peter Boghossian's Atheism Course

Apparently Boghossian can get away with a teaching a New Atheist apologetics course at a public university, on the public dime.  Of course he denies this.

Just as the purpose of religious studies is not to convert students to a particular faith tradition, this course is not about “converting” students to atheism.

But his textbook is A Manual for Creating Atheists, written by him.

See this discussion here. 

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Is anyone bias-free?

In the debate over Regnerus' investigation of same-sex parenting, it seems to me that objectivity is, by the very nature of the case, going to be difficult to come by. See the discussion here.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Do Christians have a persecution complex?


Science, God, and specialization

Why are some questions philosophical rather than scientific? If someone, such as Keith Parsons, affirms this, is it because of philosophical snobbery?

I don't think so. Science is not a general field. It is divided between physics, chemistry, biology, psychology, sociology, economics, etc. Even then, scientists are even more specialized than that. But the question of God does not fall within any specialized science, so it cannot be a scientific question.

Monday, April 25, 2016

An early memory

I grew up in a United Methodist church in Phoenix. In the early 1960s, a local fundamentalist pastor was gathering signatures for a ballot initiative that would have prohibited the teaching of evolution in public schools.

This is something of a contrast with “equal time” laws that were developed subsequently, according to which school had to teach creationism alongside evolution. No, he wanted to re-enact something like the law Scopes violated in Tennessee.

Our pastor's response  was to publicly criticize this effort. Dr. Long thought that a battle with the theory of evolution was ill-advised, and said so from the pulpit. The Huntley-Brinkley report, then NBC’s big competitor with Walter Cronkite on CBS, picked up the story, and an excerpt from Dr. Long’s sermon was on the national news. 


Saturday, April 23, 2016

Can atheist advocacy be limited by the Establishment Clause.

The question is whether open or implied atheist advocacy in public school can violate the establishment clause. The whole basis for the Dover decision was the idea that ID content has to be kept out of the public school classroom because those who supported it were motivated by a desire to promote religious belief. In a court case it was successfully argued that you atheism is protected by the free exercise clause, in a case where an atheist prisoner was granted access to atheist materials.

Now, in the Constitution, the free exercise clause and the establishment clause go together. Heck, they're in the same sentence. Atheists can't help themselves to the free exercise clause, but when accused of violating the Establishment Clause on behalf of atheism, fall back on the "not collecting stamps" argument. That's cheating. 

So, as I keep saying, the main argument in the Dover case, which was an Establishment Clause case, only works if you assume the religious neutrality of evolutionary biology. That is the official NCSE position on the compatibility of religion and evolutionary biology that people like Dawkins, Myers, and Coyne are hell-bent on attacking. 

Given the constitutional context here, the fact that atheism is not a religion in the popular sense is irrelevant. If you want Free Exercise protections, you have to live with Establishment Clause limitations. It's the American way.

Who was he talking about?

From a commentator at Debunking Christianity. How can a professor say something so moronic as: "... philosophical questions, like the existence of God". WTF? This guy is NOT a professor but a bible thumping religionist.

This is a statement about

a) Victor Reppert
b) Alvin Plantinga
c) William Lane Craig
d) Keith Parsons

What if evolution really provides an argument for atheism?

Some people think it does. Suppose teachers and textbook writers were eager to draw out the atheistic implications of evolution, and did so in public schools. (Some seem to). 

Does that mean that the teaching of evolution in school also violates the establishment clause, since it supports the religion of atheism? 

Would this mean that evolution, as well as creationism or intelligent design, could not be taught in the public schools, since it would undermine the religious neutrality of government institutions? 

The fine-tuning of the universe

1. If the initial explosion of the big bang had differed in strength by as little as one part in 10\60, the universe would have either quickly collapsed back on itself, or
expanded rapidly for stars to form. In either case, life would be impossible.
2. (An accuracy of one part in 10 to the 60th power can be compared to firing a bullet at a one-inch target on the other side of the observable universe, twenty billion light years away, and hitting the target.)
3. Calculations indicate that if the strong nuclear force, the force that binds protons and neutrons together in an atom, had been stronger or weaker by as little as five percent, life would be impossible.
4. If gravity had been stronger or weaker by one part in 10\40, then life-sustaining stars like the sun could not exist. This would most likely make life impossible.
5. If the neutron were not about 1.001 times the mass of the proton, all protons would have decayed into neutrons or all neutrons would have decayed into protons, and thus life would not be possible.
6. If the electromagnetic force were slightly stronger or weaker, life would be
impossible, for a variety of different reasons.
7. Either this is an accident, or a design. Or perhaps there is a multiverse, and we just happen to be in the universe that has life in it.