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.