Saturday, July 19, 2014

Doesn’t it make you feel important?

H/T Deacon Duncan” - from 2007:

Doesn’t it make you feel important to know that the true meaning of life is that Almighty God is doing everything in His power to make sure that you ultimately end up happy for all eternity, and that everyone who opposes you ends up unhappy? Can atheists claim to have that kind of significant relationship with that kind of significant Other? You rule, Christian dude.


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Attributes of God

Tracie Harris writes:

The attributes of my concept of X are only attributes of X if my concept of X aligns with X. Without the ability to compare my concept of X with X, I cannot call attributes of my concept of X “attributes of X.”

She was talking about the “attributes and effects of God” when she included that concise statement of the problem we all face when trying to argue about God: we can’t describe it so that everyone agrees about it. That leaves any discourse about it incomplete, or even counterproductive.

Jesus Camp

Of course, she’s also pointing out how the concept of universal God is impossible, given that we can’t describe it so that it can be verified as being God.

Commenter CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain (Great name!) suggests that most people don’t really believe - but believe that they believe.

What a convoluted way to be!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Free Will

Sam Harris appears in a video discussing his thoughts on Free Will. He believes we don’t have it, and gives calm reasonable arguments why we don’t.

Although I can’t argue against his thesis, most of us instinctively assume that we *do* have free will, that we can consciously choose to jump off the sofa and shout Jennifer Lawrence, be my queen“Jennifer Lawrence, be my queen” at any moment, and that this demonstrates our possession of free will. Having said this, but not having acted on it, kinda implies that I will jump off the sofa and shout “Jennifer Lawrence, be my queen” at some later time - which is probably true. So have I predetermined that I should do so?

What does this mean for the free will vs. determinism debate?

A Fundamental Problem with Arguments for God

Many arguments for the existence of God lack the warrant authorizing you to proceed from the premises to the conclusion that God exists. Take the Cosmological Argument, for example. You can assume that the premises are true (although this is frequently disputed, let's assume truth, for brevity's sake). You can then conclude that a First Cause exists.

That's all.

How an individual maps that First Cause to God is an entirely separate exercise that the assumption of a First Cause doesn't undertake at all.

You see this pattern over and over again - the leap of logic from First Cause (or a Designer, or a Greatest Possible Being, etc.) to the desired conclusion that "therefore God exists".

You and I see this pattern over and over.

Don't be afraid to point it out!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Cause, Effect and the Cosmos

James at Just Thomism writes a brief review of Sean Carroll’s refutation of William Lane Craig’s version of the Kalam Cosmological Argument by focusing on this passage by Carroll:

Why should we expect that there are causes or explanations or a reason why in the universe in which we live? It’s because the physical world inside of which we’re embedded has two important features. There are unbreakable patterns, laws of physics—things don’t just happen, they obey the laws—and there is an arrow of time stretching from the past to the future…. But crucially, both of these features of the universe that allow us to speak the language of causes and effects are completely absent when we talk about the universe as a whole. We don’t think that our universe is part of a bigger ensemble that obeys laws. Even if it’s part of the multiverse, the multiverse is not part of a bigger ensemble that obeys laws. Therefore, nothing gives us the right to demand some kind of external cause.

I have no comment at the moment on James’ review, but I look forward to reading more of his posts. He’s a self-described “Catholic Thomist”, and he appears to be a thoughtful guy, although I’m mystified that people still follow medieval theology.

My immediate interest is solely Carroll’s thought:

nothing gives us the right to demand some kind of external cause

It raises the more general question: “what right do we have to think the universe should conform to our expectations?” When I consider existence in this way, it reinforces the thought that only by observing patterns in the world can we make sense of the world. It is an empirical approach to the cosmos that will help us understand it.

That doesn’t mean that there’s no room for mystery, faith or magical thinking in the world - tens of billions of people have survived by the seat of their pants. But when you ask life’s “deeper questions” - mystery, faith and magical thinking will not get you in line with the cosmos that you observe.

So start paying attention to the world.


Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Necessary Preconditions of intelligibility

Apropos to my last post, while reading Dawson Bethrick's reply to a budding presuppositionalist, I was inevitably drawn deeper into the Interwebz to read background and related material. Dawson provides a series on world views and intelligibility beginning at Can a *Worldview* "Provide" the "Preconditions of Intelligibility"? - Part I.

I was reminded of Deacon Duncan's post on the same subject - containing a much more concise passage that addresses the issue:

The necessary preconditions of intelligibility are simple: reality must be consistent with itself. Intelligibility requires that we be able to employ concepts, which are mental representations corresponding to properties and/or objects in the real world, at some level of abstraction. To be meaningful, concepts must be consistent (at some level, at least), with objective reality, and that in turn requires that reality be consistent with itself. Otherwise we end up with concepts that refer only to some inconsistent and thus non-meaningful state, thus making them unintelligible and useless.

Notice that to reach this conclusion we need assume neither Christianity nor atheism. Intelligibility depends on the self-consistent nature of reality whether there’s any God or not. Indeed, if reality lacked this quality, God Himself would not exist in any meaningful way, because when reality itself is lacking in self-consistency, knowledge is meaningless and impossible, which means God could not be omniscient. (He also would be unable to be omnipotent or loving or eternal, but I’ll leave a discussion of that as an exercise for the reader.)

Dawson goes a step further, by pointing out how backwards this is:

... it should be clear that the assumption that a worldview can “provide the preconditions of intelligibility” (or “intelligible experience”) plays a central role in the presuppositionalist playbook.

Unfortunately for presuppositionalism, however, the idea that a worldview can “provide the preconditions for intelligibility” – at least with respect to the most fundamental of those preconditions – is itself incoherent. That is because those preconditions would already have to be present in order for a worldview to exist in the first place.

in order to avoid the mental contortions that a presuppositionalist has to perform in order to believe what they say, I'll summarize what both Duncan and Bethrick exposit:
  1. reality exists
  2. reality exhibits patterns that can be recognized (it is consistent with itself)
  3. entities such as ourselves need minds that can recognize the patterns in reality in order to have coherent perceptions
  4. our minds need to be able to construct, maintain and update nets of perceptions in order to develop a mental picture of what the world is like ("world view")

The Shallowness of the Presuppositional Apologetic

Dawson Bethrick from Incinerating Presuppositionalism has an excellent post that addresses a wanna-be presuppositionalist's most heartfelt recitations of the Bahnsen Procedure. A "sound bite" that caught my attention:

This simply reveals the shallowness of the presuppositional apologetic. With its mind-numbing habit of continually dropping relevant contexts, it requires to both know and not know at the same time. One must know what good and evil are in order to know that the Christian god is good, and yet one is not supposed to know what good and evil are in order to recognize the obvious contradictions which result from the conjunction of Christianity’s own claims about its god and the world it is said to have created in its all-good, all-knowing, and all-powerful wisdom.

There's lots more - this is a lengthy, lengthy post, but sometimes a brief summary like the above is all that's needed to make the point.