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Category Archives: Philosophy

Dr. Moreau & Why Christianity is Different

I’ve been asked, “What makes Christianity different than any other religion?”

Answer: it addresses a fundamental problem of human nature in a way superior to all other religions.

The problem in question is ontological — can we overcome our natural inclinations through sheer willpower alone?  Can we train away our very selves?  Or, put another way, can nurture overcome our nature? Read the rest of this entry

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Another Take: Pregnancy is Like a Traffic Accident

In this post, I argued that pregnancy is like a traffic accident:

If I needed a ride home from work, and one of my employees was kind enough to offer a ride, does that means I consent only to the ride home?  Well, actually, it means I give tacit approval to whatever happens on the ride home — whether I like it or not.  In other words, I can’t roll a d20 against my intelligence and disbelieve something I don’t like away.

For example, if the employee ran a red light and another car crashed into my side of the car, paralyzing me from the waist down.  A grim outcome to be sure, and I can seek monetary damages against the employee for medical expenses and rehab.  But I can’t wish the paralysis away.

In a way, abortion is the magic disbelieve roll.  “I’m not ready,” or “I don’t want to be a parent yet,” or any of the other excuses (and they are excuses) one manufactures.  The fact of the matter of is sex is tacit consent to pregnancy, since pregnancy is a possible result of sex.  We are taught in grade school that that is the case, so there isn’t an excuse for not knowing.

Agree or disagree with my analogy, I’m not the only one who uses it.  Here, Clinton Wilcox argues along similar lines, but I think he phrases it a little bit better:

When someone drives a car, they are taking on certain risks, such as the possibility of getting into an accident. Now, if you do get into an accident, you should not necessarily be forced to live with pain, injuries, etc., that may result from it. You also may not be at fault for it as the other driver may be. Or in some cases no one may be at fault for it.

So while you don’t necessarily have to live with the consequences, the person at fault does have to make it right by paying for the other person’s medical bills, paying to repair their car, etc. (or having their insurance do it, if they’re insured). They can’t just walk away and say, “Sorry, I consented to drive my car but I did not consent to get into an accident. You’re on your own.” Read the rest of this entry

Postmodernism in 140 Characters

Postmodernism is a complex philosophy.  I printed out the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on it, and it ran 18 pages (including bibliography).  Though the opening of that article (accessed 9/21/2012) states that postmodernism is “indefinable as a truism” and is actually “a set of critical, strategic and rhetorical practices …,” I think that DamnRightTweets™ has managed to distill all of postmodernism into a single tweet:

https://twitter.com/DamnRightTweets/status/334065733082435584

Let’s disassemble that. Read the rest of this entry

More Dumb Tweets: Belief and Morality

Juan A. Raposo put up a fascinating tweet:

The implication being that theists are only moral because our belief in God keeps us moral.

So if not for that belief, we’d be vicious killing machines.  That thought misses a grand contradiction: Ask yourself, “What restrains the atheist from raping and pillaging?”  Belief that those things are wrong.

Is that belief fundamentally different from belief in God?

The atheist would say yes, but if he were consistent he’d be forced to admit that it differs very little.  After all, the Atheist Mantra is that there is “no evidence” for God and  God can’t be scientifically proven, right?

And that means that belief in God is worthless.  The underlying principle is a form of logical positivism, variously called empiricism or scientism.  It accepts only that which can be proven scientifically (scientism) or that which can be experienced by the senses (empiricism) as valid evidence.  Most atheists use this to disqualify evidence or argument that God exists.

The flip side is that morality can’t be scientifically proven, either.  So the belief that it is immoral to rape and pillage local towns is on the same grounds as God.  If one accepts the implied tenet that only that which can be scientifically proven is worth believing, then one cannot be consistent and also believe that raping and pillaging are morally wrong.  One has to prove that case.

So we both believe, without empirical evidence, that something restrains us from committing grievous harms against our fellow humans.  And that, by Raposo’s estimation, means neither of us are moral — but that’s the whole point of needing a Savior, isn’t it?

On Rational Discussion

The following meme is making the Facebook/Twitter rounds that shows how to have rational discourse:

rational-discussion

As usual, I think that this is incredibly simplistic.  When you unpack some of these, red flags start to go up.  The person who created this, I think, has an agenda and is so focused on that agenda that he is no longer concerned with truth.

Can you envision anything that will change your mind on the topic?  The key word here is “envision.”  I can’t envision anything that would change my mind on the existence God.  That, however, doesn’t mean I will be irrational in a discussion.  Perhaps during the conversation we can find something I had not thought of that would change my mind on God.

Just because I can’t envision it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.  I have an open enough mind to accept that I may be wrong about the existence of God, while being confident that I’m not.  Aristotle observed, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”  I can entertain thoughts I don’t accept — my goal is truth, not comfort.

As a further point, I think that it is easy to use this as a crutch to end an inconvenient discussion by equivocating irrationality and passion.  I passionately believe in God, which is why I can’t envision anything changing my mind on that.  But that is not the same as irrationality.

Are you prepared to abide by the basic principles of reason in discussing this topic?  Two rules are given as an example:

  1. The position that is more reasonable and has more supporting evidence should be accepted as true.
  2. The person who asserts a position bears the onus of demonstrating its truth.

With regard to (1), “evidence” is (as it always is with atheists) left undefined.  Empirical or peer-reviewed scientific evidence aren’t the only forms of evidence.  Only accepting empirical or peer-reviewed scientific evidence is a form of logical positivism called either empircism or scientism (depending on which form you accept).  Neither position is consistent with itself, since there is no empirical or scientific evidence that would support a belief in those position.

Both positions, in fact, rule out the knowledge we gain from history, mathematics, and philosophy.  They also exclude eyewitness testimony from discussion.

Meaning that we accept things as true without “evidence” all the time — if that’s what is meant by “evidence.”  Remember that when we get to the farcical rules of discussion below.

I agree wholeheartedly with (2) provided you understand atheists share a burden of proof.

Once entered, four additional rules are given to govern the discussion:

Do not introduce a new argument while another argument has yet to be resolved.  I don’t, but every atheist I’ve had a discussion with has done this to me.  So, I won’t start doing this but please, atheists, don’t do this to me, either.

Do not move on to another argument if it is shown that a fact you have relied upon is inaccurate.  I’ll just admit my mistake, but this doesn’t happen to me often.

Provide evidence for your position or arguments.  Again, atheists should be doing this, too.  Atheists seldom back their own unbelief in God up with evidence or arguments.  This is both lazy and a direct violation of one of the basic principles of rational discussion (that the true position is more reasonable and has more supporting evidence).  Argue it’s reasonable.  Give me the evidence.

Do not argue that you do not need evidence.  Again, the obsessive requirement for evidence is logically inconsistent, because there is no evidence for accepting it as a true premise — and atheists say they only believe that which we have evidence for.

While I accept the spirit of this meme, I still find it the product of a simple mind concerned with winning online debates rather than seeking truth.

Is Having Sex Also Consent to Having a Baby?

choice2013I wanted to revisit a conversation I once witnessed between @juliewashere, a Twitter user and founder the Golden Coat Hanger, a blog on feminist and abortion issues, and @KatyPundit (who is male and named David; so much for my uncanny ability to guess gender using forum aliases).  It was almost two years ago and before I knew about WordPress’s supercool feature to reprint tweets in graphical format, so I have only text copies of the tweets involved.

I wanted to revisit the conversation because this is a line of argument that has always bugged me in regard to pro-choice folks.  They don’t think that sex necessarily must equal a baby.  While that is true, the fact is that a baby is a potential result of sex, and murder is not an appropriate method to deal with said consequence.

Julie asked when she gave consent to pregnancy, and David told Julie, “You gave consent when you spread em open.” Julie responded:

that’s consent to sex, and ONLY sex.

David replied, “LOL, Sex makes babies. At least that’s how MY kids got here… U came by Stork?” And Julie responds with a disconnect between sex and pregnancy:

no, pregnancy makes babies, and it takes several months.

What does Julie think causes pregnancy?  I’m not sure.  But I want to take a moment to ponder her position that consent to sex is consent to the physical act, and thus not tacit consent to pregnancy.  Since there was no consent to pregnancy, this entitles the pregnant woman to terminate the unwanted pregnancy.

Let’s apply this to another situation.

If I needed a ride home from work, and one of my employees was kind enough to offer a ride, does that means I consent only to the ride home?  Well, actually, it means I give tacit approval to whatever happens on the ride home — whether I like it or not.  In other words, I can’t roll a d20 against my intelligence and disbelieve something I don’t like away.

For example, if the employee ran a red light and another car crashed into my side of the car, paralyzing me from the waist down.  A grim outcome to be sure, and I can seek monetary damages against the employee for medical expenses and rehab.  But I can’t wish the paralysis away.

In a way, abortion is the magic disbelieve roll.  “I’m not ready,” or “I don’t want to be a parent yet,” or any of the other excuses (and they are excuses) one manufactures.  The fact of the matter of is sex is tacit consent to pregnancy, since pregnancy is a possible result of sex.  We are taught in grade school that that is the case, so there isn’t an excuse for not knowing.

Sex ==> Pregnancy ==> Baby

Divorcing pregnancy and parenthood from sex is a myth of our modern age, and abortion reinforces that myth.  That is a very serious issue, and it comes to the forefront each year on this dark anniversary.

The Six Ways of Atheism: Way the Third

Next from Geoffrey Berg’s Six Ways of Atheism we have the God Has No Explanatory Value Argument:

  1. God if he exists must be the ultimate being and provide the answers to all of our ultimate questions — otherwise he is not God.
  2. Yet even supposing as a hypothesis that God exists the questions that God was supposed to finally answer still remain (though in some cases God is substituted in the question for the Universe).
  3. Therefore hypothesizing is only unnecessarily adding an extra stage to such problems and has no real explanatory value.
  4. Therefore according to Logic (Occam’s Razor Law — ‘that entities are not to be multiplied beyond necessity’) we should not postulate God’s existence and there is no adequate reason to suppose that God exists.
  5. Therefore we should suppose that God does not exist.

Starting with (1), I agree that God should provide the answers to all of the ultimate questions.  When explaining the argument, however, Berg lists attributes of God (eternal, absolute good, purpose-giver) rather than explaining what big questions he means.  He only ends up asking one: How did the universe arise?

… [T]he answer for theists is, of course, God created it.  How did God arise?  Well, God has always existed.  But, why then, has the Universe not always existed?  Thus God can be cut out as an unnecessary extra.  Poor God, always being cut out as an unnecessary extra that contributes nothing to understanding except complication.  God is no more than a valueless extra intermediary stage in explanation.  (p. 64)

This didn’t work for Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion, and it isn’t going to work for Berg now.  “Who made God?” is not a valid retort. Read the rest of this entry

The Six Ways of Atheism: Way the Second

Geoffrey Berg’s second argument states that since God is so far outside the realm of human experience and comprehension, that he is simply unknowable.  Therefore, you shouldn’t believe in him.

This Man and God Comprehension Gulf Argument is formulated as follows:

  1. Man is finite (in time, space and power etc).
  2. God if he exists in infinite (in time, space  and power etc).
  3. Therefore mankind cannot possibly recognize God or even know that God exists.

I have no issues with either premises.  Man is finite per (1), and God is infinite per (2).  Neither is a problem for me.

As a conclusion, (3) overreaches; Berg should have stuck with the first clause: “Therefore mankind cannot possibly recognize God … .”  That would have been a far more reasonable conclusion given the data.  Still a demonstrably false conclusion, but a much more reasonable one.

As for “… even know that God exists,” that is simply not true.  God is the inference to the best explanation: we see design, order, natural laws — the universe makes sense.  It works together like a machine, and machines are designed and built by an intelligent mind for a purpose.

Therefore, God is a reasonable conclusion from natural philosophy (even if a controversial one).  So I disagree that mankind cannot “… even know that God exists.” Read the rest of this entry

Six Ways of Atheism: On Personal Qualifications

Geoffrey Berg has written a book with six new or improved arguments against God.  I disagree — not one argument is new and nothing is improved.  In fact, even atheists make fun of this guy (see Daniel Florien’s post here).

I am only writing on this for one reason, and one reason alone: my new resolution to finish things that I start!  I already wrote on the First Way of atheism.  Then I said I’d move on with the other disproofs Berg offered.  I never did.  I gave up, just like I give up on lots of things.

No more.

I am going to finish that which I start from now on.  This comes in two parts: previous posts and projects.  Regular readers will undoubtedly have noticed the first part of this resolution — I am far more active in the comments section than I ever have been.  I’m actually responding to challenges, instead of letting them slide!

The second part is projects — posts that I said I’d write but never actually did.  I was saddened when I read back through my blog, deleting posts that I no longer agreed with.  Whenever I got to something tagged “Site News,” there would be a list of posts I planned on writing.  And none of them ever materialized.  I was a tad horrified.  To rectify that, I’m going to write some of those posts, and finish some of the projects that I said I’d do.

One of the projects I started long ago was making a website with responses to all of the most popular atheist books.  So what I’ll do is continue with this project, and the first victim book I’ll visit is The Six Ways of Atheism.

Before I get started dismantling this piece of crap, I want to address one of Berg’s comments in the introduction.  He said:

Nor do I really wish to deal with my own personal status.  Essentially the arguments I put are valid or invalid irrespective of whether they are original to me or not.  It is the arguments I want to be considered, not the person putting the arguments. (p. 12)

He then goes on to complain about intellectual elitism in philosophy, and how you can succeed in business with no degree, but for philosophy, you need a Ph.D. or they won’t take you seriously.

Well, not surprisingly, I disagree.  It all depends on the arguments.  If you make good arguments and do your homework, people will take you seriously — even academics with tons of letters after their proper names.

Take me.  I have an associate’s degree in business.  That’s it.  I have no training in theology or philosophy, not even a 101 class.  However, I’ve had opponents ask what academic journals I’ve published in.  Once, I made a silly (but logically valid) argument to get out of doing something at work, and my boss said snidely, “I can tell you have a degree in philosophy.”

Despite my lack of formal training, I have been recognized as a thinker in philosophy of religion.  I have detractors as well — most famously Austin Cline of atheism.about.com said I do not possess the intellectual honesty to even claim the title of “armchair philosopher.”  A hit-and-run commenter on this blog said that were I to publish a book on philosophy of religion or Christian apologetics, it would be an insult to people who actually bothered to go to school to get degrees.

There are people who think Plato and Aristotle are hacks, too.  As I frequently say, any idiot can start a blog.  Any dummy can self-publish a book.  My overall point still stands: it doesn’t matter where the argument comes from as long as it is a solid argument.  If it’s good, people of all stripes will take notice.  Your book will sell.  Your blog will gain a following.

In that spirit, I am not going to consider Berg or his qualifications, only his arguments.  I will not make any snide comments about how Berg is obviously not a philosopher, because his arguments are as naive as Steve Carrel’s character in 40-year-old Virgin.  Nor am I going to make a comment about how arrogant he is; how the hubris drips off of every page leaving you with the same sticky feeling you have after a workout in high humidity.  You won’t read about how he would benefit from hiring a better copy editor than his 10 year old nephew who only worked for Mountain Dew.

No sarcasm.  No cheap shots.  From now on!

I will only consider the arguments.  If the arguments stand, then the source won’t matter.

Another Ignorant Meme

Memes are created by the dozens everyday.  I have no idea what makes one meme go viral while others sit and rot.  But I’m convinced the anti-religious ones that go viral must do one of two things:

  1. Commit serious exegetical errors that Average Joe Christian cannot counter because the church sucks at apologetics.
  2. Commit a serious category error that Average Joe American won’t notice because he’s too busy watching horrid shows like Keeping Up With the Kardashians and not busy enough learning how to think critically.

This meme goes in the second group.  I would like to point out that it is exactly the same category error discussed with the Scumbag God meme: a failure to distinguish between “kill” and “murder.”

“Kill” is a broad term that refers to the taking of lives.  Murder, on the other hand, is the unlawful taking of a life.  All murder is killing, but not all killing is murder.  For example, the following “kills” are lawful:

  1. Hunting
  2. Trapping
  3. Euthanizing sick/injured animals
  4. Butchering animals for food/by-products
  5. Killing enemy combatants
  6. Capital punishment
  7. Self-defense
  8. Defense of another who is immediate, life-threatening danger
  9. Killing a person who presents an immediate threat to the community but not directly to you (police officers only)

No comment on the fairness of those kills, but they are considered lawful in that if you clean a fish, kill an enemy soldier, shoot a horse with a broken leg, or kill to protect your child you won’t face prison time.

Murder represents a case where you killed unlawfully.  For example, if you caught your wife in bed with another guy, then beat that guy’s head in with a sharpened stick, you’re going to jail.  I’m sure that the jury would sympathize with you, mostly because there’s at least one hotheaded, possessive S.O.B. of a juror who would have done the same thing.

But that doesn’t change the legality of your action.  You still killed without a justifiable reason.  And that makes it murder.  (In the above example, if you had no “cool-down” period, it would likely be charged as manslaughter, but my point still stands that the killing is unlawful.)

Capital punishment is the right of the state, agree or disagree with it, it is still a justifiable killing.  As is killing an enemy soldier in combat; soldiers know what they’re getting in to and they know they are risking their lives when they enter the armed forces.  Same as any police officer or government Special Agent.

So, you can be pro-life, pro-war, and pro-death penalty while not earning the brand of hypocrite.  Some might say that this is special pleading, but it isn’t because I’ve shown the one exception to special pleading — the principle of relevant difference.  Lawful killing of enemy combatants and convicted murderers/traitors is vastly different than murdering a baby in the womb.

Okay, I jumped the gun a bit.  I haven’t actually proven that abortion is murder.  And that’s not my aim.  My aim is to show that not all killing is unlawful, and therefore this meme commits a serious category error.

And now, having squashed another ignorant meme, I shall enjoy a piece of Victory Gum…