Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Why I'm An Atheist - 13 Reasons & Arguments For Atheism



More than three years ago I wrote a post entitled Why I'm An Atheist, where I briefly explained some of the reasons why I don't believe in god. That post, which was long over due at the time, needs an update. With each passing year I get much better at understanding the arguments for and against the existence of god, and since that post came out I've created several new arguments of my own. Rather than write it in essay form, which I did in the original post, I'll instead outline the main reasons and arguments briefly, one by one. So here we go.

I'm an atheist because....

1) The traditional notion of god isn't coherent


In order to even consider the possibility that a god exists, we first need a coherent concept of god. The traditional notion of god in classical theism is that of a timeless, changeless, immaterial mind, who also must be infinitely good, infinitely wise, and can do anything logically possible. There are some variations on this concept, but almost all traditional or classical theistic gods have these basic characteristics. The problem is that a timeless, changeless being by definition cannot do anything; it's necessarily causally impotent and nonfunctional. Change requires time, and time requires change. This is logically certain. And to create something, one must do something. Doing requires a change, regardless of whether that change is mental or physical. A being that cannot do anything cannot be omnipotent. As a result, the traditional notion of god is self contradictory. The theist's only resort here is special pleading. That's why I like to get all theists to agree beforehand that god is not beyond logic. That is, god cannot do the logically impossible or be the logically impossible. Once a theist agrees with this, they've cut themselves off from special pleading as an option. Some theists think god is atemporal before creating the universe, and temporal after creating the universe. But it isn't logically possible to exist timelessly and then suddenly jolt yourself into time out of your own will, because your will was timeless and frozen. It couldn't change into the state to want to change.

The failure of theists to come up with a coherent description of god is enough by itself to warrant atheism, but there's many more reasons to think no gods exist.

Learn Special Relativity Online For Free!



I can't believe I haven't blogged about this yet.

A few years ago physicist Brian Greene created WorldScienceU, a free online classroom to teach science. The first course in physics is on Special Relativity, taught by Greene himself.

There are two versions of the course: the simple math-free version that allows you to understand the theory from a conceptual framework, and the full version which goes into all of the math. I've taken both courses, though I did skip most of the heavier math. There are several interactive features that allow you to play with spacetime diagrams and time dilation and length contraction to understand the ontology of the theory. If you complete the math course you basically understand the full theory, which is relatively easy. Ha!

Register now!



Thursday, October 26, 2017

Quote Of The Day: Ayaan Hirsi Ali On Female Independence


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I really need to write more about feminism, and sex, and gender relations. In fact, I'm long overdue for a lengthy post on that. I've got a lot of thoughts on it, believe me. But I've just been so hard pressed on time with work, the conference, and personal things. This year it seems I will not have blogged as much as the past two years, unless I really pick up the pace these last few months. Perhaps quality is better than quantity?

Anyway, I came across this quote by Ayaan Hirsi Ali from her book Infidel. She talks about how the financial independence of women gives women dignity. I agree. Her quote reminded of my mother, who after divorcing my father didn't run to another man to take care of her. She instead went to college, got a bachelor's degree, got a job, and became financially independent from that point on. And I'm proud of her for that.

As a woman you are better off in life earning your own money. You couldn't prevent your husband from leaving you or taking another wife, but you could have some of your dignity if you didn't have to beg him for financial support.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Simple Logic Showing How The Principle Of Sufficient Reason Is Self-Refuting


A few weeks ago I was debating the principle of sufficient reason (PSR) with a bunch of theists and a pantheist over in the combox of Strange Notions.

To me, the PSR is blatantly false, and relatively easy to prove so. The PSR's own assumptions can show how it's self refuting. In this blog post I want to compile some of the logic I use to show what entails from the PSR's stated premises that show it's flaws. Consider this:


1. The PSR demands that everything has an explanation.
2. Explanations can only be either necessary or contingent.
3. If an explanation is contingent, it will need a further explanation that is either necessary or contingent.
4. If a necessary explanation is not an eventual option, then the only possible explanations will have to be either an infinite regress of contingent explanations, or a brute fact.
5. A fourth option is impossible because the PSR demands only two possible kinds of explanations, which will ultimately terminate in 3 logical possibilities.

(Furthermore...)

6. Since brute facts are incompatible with the PSR, and an infinite regress of contingent explanations would require a necessary explanation for the chain's existence, the only real ultimate explanation for the PSR is a necessary one.
7. Since this universe is not logically necessary (necessitarianism is false - per argument below), the last remaining option per the PSR — the necessary option — also fails.
8. Even positing a god who creates/explains the universe doesn't resolve the problem because it is not logically necessary that god create our particular universe.
9. Since the PSR negates all 3 options, the PSR's logic is inherently false.
10. This means one will eventually have to come to the conclusion that brute facts are a necessity. (Even an infinite chain of contingent explanations will itself be a brute fact).


Now some of these steps need further justification.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Quote Of The Day: Why Denying Eternalism Forces You To Accept Brute Facts



A few years ago when I was completely obsessed with the philosophy of time I read many papers for and against presentism and eternalism. In one paper called Presentism and Relativity philosopher Yuri Balashov and physicist Michel Janssen write that in order to maintain presentism one has to lose the explanatory power of the "space-time interpretation" or B-theory (which is eternalism). Lorentz invariance becomes an accidental property "shared by all laws effectively governing systems in Newtonian space and time." I've written in the past that without eternalism length contraction in special relativity becomes inexplicable. It "just is" that way with no apparent explanation. Balashov and Janssen argue it's not the thing that becomes inexplicable.

In the neo-Lorentzian interpretation it is, in the final analysis, an unexplained coincidence that the laws effectively governing different sorts of matter all share the property of Lorentz invariance, which originally appeared to be nothing but a peculiarity of the laws governing electromagnetic fields. In the space-time interpretation this coincidence is explained by tracing the Lorentz invariance of all these different laws to a common origin: the space-time structure posited in this interpretation (Janssen 1995, 2002).[22]
The argument can be made in different ways. Einstein made it in the opening paragraph of the 1905 paper with the help of his famous magnet-conductor example: for the current measured in the conductor only the relative motion of magnet and conductor matters, but in Lorentz’s theory the case with the magnet at rest is very different from the case with the conductor at rest. No matter how the argument is made, the point is that there are brute facts in the neo-Lorentzian interpretation that are explained in the space-time interpretation. As Craig (p. 101) writes (in a different context): “if what is simply a brute fact in one theory can be given an explanation in another theory, then we have an increase in intelligibility that counts in favor of the second theory.” We just presented such an argument in the case of the space-time interpretation versus the neo-Lorentzian interpretation. The argument is not iron-clad and may still be outweighed by the needs of theology or quantum mechanics. But it is on a par with, say, the argument for preferring Darwinian evolution over special creation. That is good enough for us. (emphasis mine)

Friday, October 20, 2017

Video: Losing Our Religion


A few years ago over on the PBS News Hour they had a segment on the recent PEW results which showed a dramatic drop in the number of self-identified Christians in the US and a rise in the non-religious. It's worth a watch to hear their analysis. One interesting moment is when they touch up on whether a deeply religious country is a good thing in and of itself and something to be preserved. It'll be interesting to see what further declines will occur in the coming decade. I predict that religion has entered a steep and irreversible decline, but we'll see.



Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The "God Has Morally Sufficient Reasons" Theodicy


It's been a bad few months in terms of natural disasters. Back-to-back hurricanes Maria and Irma devastated countries and regions in the Caribbean that were already struggling financially, killing at least 59 and 75 people, respectively. Prior to this, hurricane Harvey slammed east Texas dumping more than 25 trillion gallons of water, flooding the Houston metro area and gulf coast with as much as $180 billion in damages, and killing at least 82 people in the process. A series of earthquakes rocked southern and central Mexico killing at least 422 people, including 25 children at a school. Thousands more were injured, and perhaps millions more were affected by property damage from the natural disasters.

It's in times like these that I'm reminded of the problem of evil — specifically natural evil. Natural evil is an evil for which "no non-divine agent can be held morally responsible for its occurrence." Floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, forest fires, droughts, meteor impacts, and diseases that cause sentient beings to suffer or die and for which no human being is responsible are examples of natural evil.

Natural evil doesn't exist on atheism since there is no conscious creator, designer, or sustainer to nature. But since many theists do believe nature has a creator, designer, and sustainer who is also omnibenevolent — meaning perfectly and infinitely good, there is big problem with natural evil on most forms of theism, particularly Christian theism. To deal with the stinging issue of natural evil, theists have come up with theodicies, which are attempts to explain why an omnibenevolent deity can coexist with moral and natural evil.

Once such theodicy is what I'm going to call the "God has morally sufficient reasons" to allow evil theodicy, or the MSR theodicy. According to the MSR theodicy, god allows natural evils so that some good thing can come from it at a later time, kind of like how the pain you endure at the dentist (an experience I had the other week) is all for the greater good of having healthy teeth. It appears that the MSR theodicy is a variation of the soul building theodicy, which says that natural evils can be god's way of challenging moral agents to goodness or some soul building benefit.

Quote Of The Day: Sean Carroll On The Big Bang


Later on this year, probably in December, I'm going to be giving a talk at a Long Island Atheists event on how atheists can better answer some of the most common challenges they face. It's going to be called Make Atheism Great Again, and will be a preview of my talk at The Atheist Conference.

While making the PowerPoint presentation I made a slide featuring physicist Sean Carroll with a quote from his debate with William Lane Craig on God and Cosmology. It mentions the problem most people have with understanding the big bang — particularly Craig, who I think knows better, and yet continues to claim that on atheism the universe just "pops" into existence. Carroll sets the record straight, but don't expect Craig et al. to learn from it. Their job requires they deny this.


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Thinking About Taking The Pro-Truth Pledge


I've been a bit busy lately and haven't had much time to blog. I've been working with friends on putting together the first ever atheist conference in New York City and it's taking up much of my time. I'm currently in charge of recording and editing video promos for the event and this takes weeks of commitment. I'm also in charge of maintaining the site and various other event planning details.

I will have much more on this event in the upcoming weeks and months, but if you're interested, check out our site TheAtheistConference.com right now. Tickets just went on sale last week. We haven't heavily promoted it yet because we're waiting for a big event. But when the grand announcement is made, it will be made on all of our social media, including our Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as my site of course. I will also be speaking at the event moderating a panel. Stay tuned!

I also have many lengthy blog posts in the pipe that will be published later this month, including a critique of the "God has morally sufficient reasons for allowing suffering" theodicy.

I will also be in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania this weekend for the annual Pennsylvania State Atheist/Humanist Conference. The Gotham Atheist contingent and I are going down there to help out and promote our conference. So that's going to take a few days away from blogging. I will hopefully have a lot in the second half of the month.


I've caught wind of the pro-truth pledge that's being talked about. In the age of Trump and rampant lying, asking people to take a pledge towards telling the truth is a necessity. There are people who are willing to lie about anything in order to further a political, economic, religious, or social goal. The ends always justifies the means, and it's leading to horrible behavior.

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