Archive for category Naturalism

Christianity and Politics, Should They Mix?

David P. Gushee wrote an USA Today column titled in big bold letters “Christian politics create unholy alliances”:

“They are at it again. Republican presidential candidates are trolling for conservative Christian votes. Christian political organizers are trolling for Republican candidates’ attention. (The next occasion will be the Republican candidate debate sponsored by The Family Leader in two weeks at a church in Des Moines.) The Democrats, too, will make some effort to join this game, as they did in the 2008 cycle.”

This is what he had to say about politicians “abuse of Christian symbols”:

“Politicians continue to use and abuse the language and symbols of Christian faith in order to win political support. They speak of God, Jesus, Christian faith and Christian values. They bow their heads in prayer at a million chicken dinners. Then Christian voters — perhaps flattered, perhaps reassured — think that these evocations of holy Christian symbols and terms actually mean something.”

Mr. David Gushee submits that the “trolling” conservatives are using “Christian values” (gasp!) as a means of winning “political support” (double-gasp!) from Christian America (blasphemy!).  For  Mr. Gushee’s sake  (and I expect about 40% of the rest of America) we ought to have a set of earplugs and blinders at the ready when watching the presidential debates. It’s for our own good;  us “rank-in-file Christians”. We just don’t what’s good for us. Wait? When was politics decreed sterile of worldviews? Christianity tugs a worldview behind it; when a candidate associates himself with this worldview, we acquire some deep insight into the mind of that candidate.  So, I guess my main question is this: how is it wrong for a politician to articulate his worldview truthfully? This question seems to be inaccurate, actually. Gushee isn’t angry at politicians expressing any old worldview; it’s the Christian one that irks him. Why ought politicians hide their religious beliefs? Is politics some sort of sacred ground in which the candidate is purged of all his Christian worldviews and then – enlightened in the ways of the secular humanist – is prepared to run the presidential race? It seems quite contrary to our intuition.  A candidate’s religion usually dictates the ethics that he conforms to. Therefore, when a candidate submits that the Bible is the source of his moral standard, that’s a good thing to know ; understanding the worldview of the person you’re voting for is appropriate and ought to be encouraged.

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Bad Arguments for Atheism: Philosophy is Useless

The Depraved Effect of Empiricism:
“Philosophy, in the academic sense, is the art of asking questions that cannot be answered. Any idiot can ask that kind of question.
The awesome power of rational thought is that we can ask questions to which we CAN find the answer.
Only a total moron turns their back on that.”
— Chance Brown’s comment on this facebook page 

Should philosophy be utterly forgotten “since all we need is science”?  It’s actually kind of  ironic due to that fact that they employ a philosophy to say that “philosophy is stupid”. They are using philosophy to form their argument against philosophy! These people never seem to let me down.

Why We Need Philosophy:

All humans
 orient their lives around ideas of the nature of reality; how they explain their experiences of reality; and how they explain their ideas about what reality ought to be like. We formed all of these through the help of philosophy — no empirical evidence necessary and yet they are necessary for empirical evidence.

Human beings need metaphysical ideas
 because they are not born with instincts that determine  what they should think and want. We are born with the capacities to make up our own minds and to question any belief we have or meet. It is evident that most of the ideas in history that people have used to explain human experiences have been false or unfounded in many respects, and it is also evident that most of the ideas in history or direct human behaviour have been harmful to other human beings or to themselves. On the other hand, it is also evident that whatever adequate understanding people have of themselves, of others, and of their environment, is based on the asking and answering of the type of general questions that are philosophical. It is human to ask and answer such questions and to play with such ideas– it’s part of our nature.

All ideas about philosophy, including those that condemn philosophy, are themselves philosophical ideas. To declare all philosophical concepts useless, trifling, or impossible is little better than a refusal to do any serious philosophical reasoning. The ideas people live and die for,  war and kill for, are all philosophical ideas and are not meant to be shrugged off.

And finally, in Plato’s Apology, Socrates tells us that philosophy is a necessary tool for obtaining wisdom and knowledge. Socrates believed that in the absence of philosophy, we would not be able to question or disagree with our  thinking or ideas — we simply go with the flow and assume that whatever we  see, hear, or read is correct. As Socrates says, “… as long as I lead an unexamined life, I’m very unlikely to catch my errors and I’m very likely to go on fooling myself.”  Hmmm. I thought atheists didn’t like that. I thought they always cry out saying that we “religious folks” ought not to have a “blind faith” mentality — something that is produced when philosophy is absent from the mind.

So whenever a non-believer pulls this bluff as an argument, just give him the basic reasons why we need philosophy and how it’s actively used in everyday life; even in his own argument he’s forming against philosophy.

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Who Made God?

The Dawkins Delusion:
It’s an age-old question of origins. Who created the creator? Does God have parents? It’s merely a brain-teaser of sorts, but for some naive authors, *cough* like Richard Dawkins *cough*, it’s their central argument.  An excerpt from this not-to-be-named author’s book, The God Delusion:

“1. One of the greatest challenges to the human intellect has
been to explain how the complex, improbable appearance of design in the universe

2. The natural temptation is to attribute the appearance of
design to actual design itself.

3. The temptation is a false one because
the designer hypothesis immediately raises the larger problem of who designed
the designer.

4. The most ingenious and powerful explanation is Darwinian
evolution by natural selection.

5. We don’t have an equivalent
explanation for physics.

6. We should not give up the hope of a better
explanation arising in physics, something as powerful as Darwinism is for

Therefore, God almost certainly does not exist.”

Now, you don’t need to be a Oxford philosopher to understand that his premises for the argument do not lead to the odd conclusion that “God almost certainly does not exist”.  Why? Because he’s saying that we can’t infer a designer to things that appear to be designed. To Dawkins’ dismay, however, there are plenty of arguments for God that have nothing to do with the appearance of design in the universe. His reasoning is thus logically invalid because the argument is just another non sequitur. But, for the sake of the discussion,  we’ll let it slide. Mr. Dawkins’ main point is that we have no right to infer an intelligent designer for the universe because a new problem arises: who designed the designer?

A Rebuttal:
1. As many philosophers have already pointed out, you don’t need an explanation of an explanation to conclude if it’s valid or not. It’s really that simple. As an analogy, pretend I head off to England. Assume I find Stonehenge. I examine it and determine that it was developed by an intelligence. Now, is my inferring intelligence less correct because (1) I don’t have any clue who made it and (2) I don’t know who the ancestors of the people that made Stonehenge? Obviously not. If I was wrong in doing this, it would put us in a vacuum of knowledge in which we would always have to explain the explanation ad infinitum to decide whether to believe something or not (i.e. an infinite regress).

Who made Stonehenge?
Who made them?
Well, you forgot to explain them too!
And so on….

2. Asking the very question “who created God” is nonsensical. God being the very first cause, this would be like asking  “who created the uncreatable?”. It’s just a bunch of pseudoquestions because it forces us to conceive created gods,  instead of who we’re really talking about – God.

In Conclusion:
You’re not required to explain God in order to recognize that He is the best explanation. It’s quite odd that Dawkins uses this argument as his “central” one. It was his knockout argument — or so he thought.

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Bad Arguments For Atheism: The Dragon in My Garage and Naturalism

I'm the dragon that lives in your garage!

“A fire-breathing dragon lives in my garage” by Carl Sagan

Suppose (I’m following a group therapy approach by the psychologist Richard Franklin) I seriously make such an assertion to you.  Surely you’d want to check it out, see for yourself.  There have been innumerable stories of dragons over the centuries, but no real evidence. What an opportunity!

“Show me,”  you say.  I lead you to my garage.  You look inside and see a ladder, empty paint cans, an old tricycle — but no dragon.

“Where’s the dragon?” you ask.

“Oh, she’s right here,” I reply, waving vaguely.  “I neglected to mention that she’s an invisible dragon.”

You propose spreading flour on the floor of the garage to capture the dragon’s footprints.

“Good idea,” I say, “but this dragon floats in the air.”

Then you’ll use an infrared sensor to detect the invisible fire.

“Good idea, but the invisible fire is also heatless.”

You’ll spray-paint the dragon and make her visible.

“Good idea, but she’s an incorporeal dragon and the paint won’t stick.”  And so on.  I counter every physical test you propose with a special explanation of why it won’t work.

Now, what’s the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all?  If there’s no way to disprove my contention, no conceivable experiment that would count against it, what does it mean to say that my dragon exists?  Your inability to invalidate my hypothesis is not at all the same thing as proving it true.  Claims that cannot be tested, assertions immune to disproof are veridically worthless, whatever value they may have in inspiring us or in exciting our sense of wonder.

Now there’s a glaring fallacy in this failed analogy. Mr. Sagan plainly states that “if there’s no way to disprove my contention, no conceivable experiment that would count against it, what does it mean to say that my dragon exists?”. In other words, “If my dragon cannot be put in a test tube, it doesn’t exist.” ( i.e. naturalism is the only way to knowledge). That’s pretty much the whole point of the analogy.

My question for Mr. Sagan is this:
“Can the logic you’re using in your argument be put in a test tube?”

Obviously the answer is “no”. Then how is Sagan justified in saying that naturalism is the only true theory of knowledge? If logic is not a viable way of reasoning, then why should we trust Sagan’s logic? In fact, why trust anybody’s logic? If our brains are just recombinations of matter, why believe that our thoughts and ideas are accurate? Why trust your perception of the world? Why trust science? If our senses have no intrinsic truth value, then we can’t have confidence in anything about the natural world. From this we must conclude that naturalism leaves us in a hopeless vacuum of knowledge.  It’s a sad place when we can’t know anything for sure.

So, when Sagan says,”What’s the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all?” simply say, “What’s the difference between a blind, nihilistic, epistemological belief that spits reasonless contradictions and no epistemological theory at all? There isn’t one!”.

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Moral Relativism vs. Moral Objectivism: Conventionalism.

Relativism is a very interesting belief that, well, doesn’t make a lick of sense. So why am I talking about it? Because most of the PC (Politically Correct, for those who don’t live in California) world believes in some type of moral relativism. It’s inescapable. That’s why I think it’s a completely relevant topic in today’s world and needs a response. To get started, let’s define the two types of mainstream relativism:

1. Conventionalism: Moral truths are completely or partially dependent on societal conventions. And for the ease of remembering, we’ll call this: “Societal Relativism” (i.e. if society believes (x), then you ought to do it).
2. Subjectivism: Moral truths are dependent on the personal preferences of the individual. We’ll call this: “I Say Relativism” (i.e. personal tastes: “Pizza Hut has the best pizza”).

In this post, I’ll start off by talking about some nonsensical conclusions of Societal Relativism (I’ll talk about I Say Relativism later):

The Euthyphro Dillema:

The Euthyphro dillemma applied to Societal Relativism basically goes like this: “Is ‘good’ supported by society because it is actually ‘good’, or is something ‘good’ because a particular society supports it?”.

The First Horn:

The answer to this one is pretty easy. If the relativist states that society supports something that is ‘good’ because it is ‘good’, then he’s not actually a relativist; he’s accepting that there is an alternative and more superior moral measuring stick, if you will, that society attempts to live up to. He is thus contradicting the core premise of moral relativism and ought to reconsider his beliefs.

The Second Horn:

This one is a little tougher, but not by much. If the relativist asserts that something is ‘good’ because a certain society supports, then a whole slew of problems happen:

Problem 1: A central belief of Societal Relativism asserts that all societal laws/beliefs equate to moral truths. This means that genocide, racism, infanticide, slavery, and oppression were all ‘good’. Really? Yup. If there are no ‘self-evident’ laws in the universe, this is what we end up with. I seriously doubt that you’ll meet any person that actually believes this, but if you do, then this person is, as William Lane Craig puts it, “morally handicapped” and needs to get some help.

Problem 2:
 If Societal Relativism is true, then anybody who opposes the ‘divine commands of society’ are immoral. Relativists agree with this. However, when taken to it’s logical conclusion, they seem to squirm. Why? Because people like, Martin Luther King Jr.,  Oskar Schindler,  and many others that opposed the ‘sacred law of the land’ are thus ‘evil’. It’s a logical conclusion and is inescapable. The men and women who risked their lives to save the Jewish people in the Holocaust were all ‘evil’. The men and women who risked their lives in assisting slaves in the Underground Railroad were all ‘evil’. The list goes on and on. Most Societal Relativists don’t even realize this. They believe that relativism fixes ethical problems, when in fact all it does is complicate things.

In Conclusion:
As we’ve seen above, Societal Relativism goes completely against our moral intuitions. Things like justice, fairness, blame, etc. just don’t make sense in a topsy turvy relativistic world. It just doesn’t fit. The Societal Relativist is either morally insane, delusional, or hasn’t actually thought about what he or she believes. This is why it is our duty to show the frankly evil conclusions of moral relativism and give the alternative: moral objectivism.

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Arguments For God: The Moral Argument

Definitions, Terms, And More:

This is probably one of the most convincing arguments for the existence of God and especially as a negation towards moral relativism. Now before we start the argument, let’s define a couple of important terms:

1. Moral duties: the obligation to retreat from the ‘bad’ and fulfill the ‘good’.
2. Moral values: ‘good’ and  ‘bad’.
3. Moral objectivism: moral values and duties that are independent of what people think (e.g. the Holocaust is bad, even if the Nazis succeeded in brainwashing the world to think that it wasn’t).
4. Moral relativism: moral values and duties that are dependent of what people think.
5. Moral intuition: an intuitional proposition is true because (1) it is self-evident, (2) needs no further justification, (2) and is known in full once all the facts are laid out (2+2=4 must be learned, but is justified by an appeal to intuition).

Here is the syllogism for the argument for those who like to see the logical flow:

1.  If God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist.
2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.
1. Therefore God does exist.
With these in mind let’s begin the argument!

In Defense of Premise 1:
Many an atheist proudly affirm that objective morality exists even in the absence of God. They state that the origin of morality is derived from the evolutionary process and is grounded in our society. It’s merely an adaptation to our hostile environment – just like legs or arms. But an obvious problem arises when one claims this: morality doesn’t become objective in a naturalistic worldview, it becomes merely an illusion of the mind conditioned throughout the ages. Why? Because it was put in our minds for the sole purpose of increasing our survivability rate. Nothing else. Therefore, it becomes impossible to condemn war, oppression, racism, and sexual abuse as evil. Although, through the course of human evolutionary development, such actions have become ‘taboo’, there is no reason to believe that such actions are actually wrong. A person committing rape, for example, is simply going against the social norm and is thus on the same level as a person that belches at the dinner table or leaves the toilette seat up. The rapist is merely acting unfashionable.  Morality when coupled with evolution becomes relativistic and non-binding, not objective and obligatory.

Some radical types have retreated to a spin-off of the famous Platonic Good to explain the existence of objective morality without God. They posit that the abstract concepts of love, charity, compassion, etc. exist in their own eternal realm and act within the non-abstract realm. However, a contradiction arises from this. From their claim it follows that in the absence of people, universals like charity would still exist. Why? Because these traits allegedly exist in an independent abstract dimension. However, this statements is incoherent because charity isn’t actually charitable. Secondly, I don’t see how this abstract dimension could interact with the physical dimension. It just doesn’t make sense. But that’s besides the point. Even if the abstract could interact with the physical dimension how would we know what is ‘good’ or ‘wrong’, since the only thing these abstract ideas could do is simply describe a particular set of actions and not actually oblige us to do anything. Thus, this theory neglects to answer both the meta-physical and normative ethical questions.

In Defense Of Premise 2:

I think it’s important to remember that the burden of proof is on the one that makes claims that are different from our moral intuition. This is to say that any theory that seems to contradict our ethical intuitions needs justification.  But, this begs the question, do intuitions actually exist? The answer is yes. There are many different pathways to gaining knowledge and I think one of them is morality. I also think that with every pathway to knowledge there are certain “base beliefs”. These base beliefs range from things like self-awareness, mathematical equations, logical principles, and most importantly, basic moral laws. One might ask, “How do you know such ‘base beliefs’ exist?”. Well, Aristotle seemed to agree with me: “Some, indeed, demand to have the law proved, but this is because they lack education; for it shows lack of education not to know of what we should require proof, and of we should not. For it is quite impossible that everything should have a proof; the process would go on to infinity, so there would be no proof….” (Aristotle, Metaphysics, 1006a). If I always had to give justification for my beliefs, then I would have to ad infinitum. Forever. To stop this infinite regress one must appeal to the apparent: intuitions or base beliefs.

Take this conversation:
“What color is that apple?”
“How do you know the apple is red?”
“Because the apple is right in front of me….”
“How do you know the apple is right in front of you?”
“Because I see it….”
“How do you know you see it?”
“Because the I see the physical world and that apple is in the physical world.”
“How do you know you see the physical world?”

It seems I’m stuck. I don’t conclude that I see the physical world based upon any other evidence. The infinite regress seems apparent. We need intuitions; without them we wouldn’t be able to know anything.

So how does this prove that objective morals exist? Well I think goes like this:
(1) If objective morality does not exist, then our moral intuitions do not exist.
(2) Our moral intuitions do exist.
(C1) Therefore, objective morality exists.

We’ve already proven premise (2) of the argument above, so what about (1)? From our argument we see that if our moral intuitions suggested the objectivity morality, then we would observe that our intuitions would be things that would only make sense if morality were objective. I think that our intuitions of justice, fairness, tolerance, charity, etc. all point to objective morality because these things can’t exist in a relative world. There is no justice if nobody is wrong. There is no tolerance if you have no obligation to respect each other’s beliefs. The list goes on and on. Our base beliefs only make sense in an objective world and until proven wrong (since the burden of proof is on the opposing side) we have every reason to believe so.

In Conclusion:

We can be sure that we cannot truly be good without a law giver. On the other hand, if we do believe that moral values and duties are objective and intuitional, that provides moral grounds for believing in God.

It interests me how the alleged “New Atheists”  have rejected God as the source of moral objectivity. Richard Taylor on the subject writes, “The modern age, more or less repudiating the idea of a divine lawgiver, has nevertheless tried to retain the ideas of moral right and wrong, not noticing that, in casting God aside, they have also abolished the conditions of meaningfulness for moral right and wrong as well. Thus, even educated persons sometimes declare that such things are war, or abortion, or the violation of certain human rights, are ‘morally wrong,’ and they imagine that they have said something true and significant.Educated people do not need to be told, however, that questions such as these have never been answered outside of religion…. Contemporary writers in ethics, who blithely discourse upon moral right and wrong and moral obligation without any reference to religion, are really just weaving intellectual webs from thin air; which amounts to saying that they discourse without meaning.”

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