Showing posts with label Morality. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Morality. Show all posts

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Abortion And Anti-Natalism Part 2: The Pro-Choice Argument


No issue continues to be as divisive as abortion. The polls on the ethics of abortion have not significantly budged in the past few decades, with no clear majorities for it or against it. As a negative utilitarian who is sympathetic to the ideas in anti-natalism (but who isn't an anti-natalist), I am naturally pro-choice as a result. I see it as excessively immoral to force a woman to give birth with total disregard to her circumstance, or the future baby's circumstance. 


But abortion still needs to be argued for, especially given its controversies. I think the pro-choice crowd has in general failed to make a strong case for the ethics of the pro-choice position, whereas the pro-life crowd has vehemently made many cases against abortion. The reason why is obvious: abortion is the law of the land, and therefore pro-lifers are more motivated to make the case against abortion than pro-choices are to make the case for it's morality and legality. And this has the potential to turn the tide of opinion in favor of outlawing abortion, which could motivate politicians to implement stronger anti-abortion restrictions, despite the supreme court's 1973 decision. 

So in making the case for the ethics and legality of abortion I want to start where I think many pro-choicers fail. A common argument many in the pro-choice side make is that the fetus isn't human and isn't alive and that therefore aborting it isn't killing a living human being. I don't think it's necessary to claim this to defend abortion, and I also think it's wrong. A fetus has human DNA, making it genetically identifiable as human or homo sapien, and it is a living organism, requiring food that it metabolizes into energy to subsist. So I think this common argument forces the pro-choice position into defending two claims that are indefensible and ultimately unnecessary in defending abortion, and they should be dropped. It is simply unnecessary to claim a fetus isn't human or alive to justify abortion.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Abortion And Anti-Natalism Part 1: Anti-Natalism Analyzed


It recently occurred to me that I've never made a formal argument for abortion on my blog, although I've certainly touched on the topic in various posts. I've been inspired to write about abortion because of my recent interest in the idea of anti-natalism. So I plan on spending two blog posts writing my thoughts about each topic, culminating in an argument for the ethics of abortion.

Anti-natalism is the view that not procreating is preferable to procreating because life necessarily involves some degree of suffering and there is an asymmetric relationship between suffering and pleasure such that the experience of suffering outweighs the experience of pleasure. So for example, on that latter part, imagine you were offered a week long vacation to anywhere in the world where you can do anything you wanted and all expenses would be paid for you making it totally free. But, in order to get the free vacation, you must submit to a certain amount of physical torture first. This physical torture would involve massive amounts of pain but not include any life lasting physical defects, like broken bones, scars, etc. Just pain. You also get to negotiate how long the torture will be, with the ability to bargain it down. The bargaining starts at 1 week in length, the same length as the vacation. The question is: what would be the longest amount of time you'd be willing to be tortured for a week long all-expenses paid vacation in paradise? Would you be willing to be tortured for a week? A day? An hour? A minute? A second? None at all? Chances are the maximum amount of time of torture you'd be willing to endure is not equal to the amount of time of pleasure you'd get on the vacation. In other words, if you were forced to endure an equal duration of torture to the pleasure of the vacation, you would likely not agree to the deal.

And that's because you recognize that there's an asymmetry between pain and pleasure. 1 minute at the spa getting pampered is not equal to 1 minute of torture. Now what exactly that ratio is between pain and pleasure is perhaps subjective, but virtually all of us recognize that there is an asymmetry, and we factor that into our calculations for ourselves and our loved ones when we make a cost-benefit analysis of difficult ethical conundrums.

And therein lies the basic argument for anti-natalism:

  1. Suffering is guaranteed in every human life. 
  2. Because there is an asymmetry between suffering and pleasure, such that the impact of suffering far outweighs pleasure, 
  3. In the moral calculus to have a child the heavier weight of the potential suffering overrides the weight of potential pleasure.
  4. And thus, it is better to not have a child than to have one.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Why The Free Will Defense Fails Even If There's Free Will


We hear it over and over again: God let's people commit evil acts because he doesn't want to take away our free will. It's repeated so often and in such a knee jerk fashion that you'd think it was theistic Tourette's syndrome.

The only problem is that it fails as an explanation even if there's free will. And quite easily. Now of course libertarian free will is totally incoherent, but if we assume for the sake of argument that free will is somehow true, the free will defense of moral evil still fails. Here's how.

The original Dr. Evil
Let's take the classic epitome of moral evil: Adolf Hitler. Atheists will commonly raise objections to the theist's claim that god is omnibenevolent by saying, "If God is good and can prevent evil, why didn't God prevent Hitler from committing the Holocaust?" The theist's answer: free will.

Here's 6 reasons how this answer fails:

  • God could have made it so that Hitler got into art school, which could have set his life off on a very different direction, possibly preventing Hitler's rise to political power. Hitler famously got rejected from the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts when he was 18 by failing the entrance exam, ending his dream of being a professional painter. This would not have violated anyone's free will.
  • God could have made Hitler die in World War I where he served as a soldier and was wounded, and that would have prevented his rise to political power, preventing the Holocaust and World War II. Tens of millions died in World War I, many from disease. Hitler would have been just another casualty. This would not have violated anyone's free will.
  • Going back further, god could have given young Hitler cancer as a child. God kills thousands of kids with cancer every year across the world, extinguishing any freedom those kids could have had as adults. Why not have given baby Hitler cancer? Surely none of the kids who do get cancer and die would have committed as much evil as Hitler did. Again, this would not have violated anyone's free will.
  • Going back yet further, god could have given Hitler's dad erectile dysfunction on the night Hitler was conceived, which would have prevented Hitler from being conceived, thus preventing World War II. This would not have violated anyone's free will.
  • Further still, god could have made it so that the sperm cell that would have made Hitler never got to the egg by making other sperm cells get there instead, which would have resulted in a completely different person being conceived and born instead. This would not have violated anyone's free will.
  • And lastly, god could have made it so that the sperm cell that would have created Hitler never got created in the first place. Very simple. And again, none of this would not have violated anyone's free will.

Any one of these possibilities would have prevented Hitler from committing moral atrocities like the Holocaust in a way where no one's free will is ever challenged, and each of them could have easily been done by an omnipotent deity. These type of preventions could similarly be applied to Mao and Stalin, and any other moral monster from history. It's amazing how few people have noticed this. But it's always been quite obvious to me.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Atheists On Religion, Science, And Morality (The Point)


Way back 5 years ago I remember watching this episode of The Point hosted by science advocate Cara Santa Maria, that featured Michael Shermer and one of my favorite physicists Sean Carroll talking about atheism, secularism and secular living, morality, and culture. It's worth a watch. There's also a follow up Q and A video.




Atheist Q and A


Friday, November 24, 2017

Sacerdotus Is (Even More) Stupid (Than Previously Thought) Part 5


Author's note: I know I just wrote that I'd be spending more time writing about social issues and lay off atheism for a bit, but a recent attempt to rebut my blog post on why I'm an atheist got my attention and prompted me to make a response. I'll get back to social issues when this is done.



Happy Thanksgiving!

A supposed "philosopher" who challenged me on my post Why I'm An Atheist, wrote a follow up to my follow up, and in it he claims again, that's he's refuted me and that I'm ignorant of science and philosophy. The exact opposite is true and I can easily show why. His arguments are so bad, they are laughable. And I don't mean this to be facetious, I mean this with all seriousness. He makes so many common argumentative mistakes and factual errors that I cannot take him seriously that he has a degree in philosophy and science. If he does have a degree, he should get a refund, because he apparently learned no serious critical thinking skills because of it. His arguments are on the caliber of the same old tired internet apologist, like the many wannabe William Lane Craig clones out there. Only he's at the low end of the spectrum.

If you're wondering why my posts denigrate him so harshly it's because he mocks atheists and calls atheism stupid. Here I'm just giving him a taste of his own medicine.


I continue with part 5 covering arguments 12 and 13. Starting with his response to argument 12, his words are in block quotes.


12) All the arguments for god fail


Continuing on with this sad excuse for rebuttal we come to some demographics on atheism. He writes,

Atheism is declining. The author is not up-to-date and relies on an old 2014 study.  According to the Pew Research, atheism is on the decline (see: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/07/why-people-with-no-religion-are-projected-to-decline-as-a-share-of-the-worlds-population/). Previous studies claiming that the "nones" is on the rise clearly specify that these "nones" are not atheists, but those who are indifferent to religion. In other words, they are people who simply do not adhere to organized religion but still believe in God.  Atheism or atheists who completely reject God and religion are in fact on the decline. It is nearly extinct in Russia (see: http://www.sacerdotus.com/2017/07/atheism-declining-in-russia.html).

Many mistakes here. First, taken at face value, that article doesn't say atheism or the unaffiliated is declining. It says the unaffiliated will decline as a percentage of the world's population only due to the rising number of Muslim births in third world countries. (And by this metric Christianity is also declining). It doesn't say the raw number of atheists or unaffiliated will decline. In fact, the number of unaffiliated is actually expected to grow from 1.1 billion to 1.2 billion. He'd know that if he actually read the article instead of reading the headline.


Secondly, I've already written a critique on my blog about the faulty methodology of PEW's projection methods. Read: Did Pew Project The Future Of Religion Accurately? I wrote that "It seems that they're not taking into account conversions and deconversions. Many theists are leaving their religions and becoming unaffiliated (which includes all deists, agnostics, and atheists) and this is especially true in the West, where the number of Christians is dropping precipitously. Their future projection of the percentage of the unaffiliated in the US by 2050 seems deeply suspect, and indeed, out of whack with their other data."

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Sacerdotus Is (Even More) Stupid (Than Previously Thought) Part 4


Author's note: I know I just wrote that I'd be spending more time writing about social issues and lay off atheism for a bit, but a recent attempt to rebut my blog post on why I'm an atheist got my attention and prompted me to make a response. I'll get back to social issues when this is done.



A supposed "philosopher" who challenged me on my post Why I'm An Atheist, wrote a follow up to my follow up, and in it he claims again, that's he's refuted me and that I'm ignorant of science and philosophy. The exact opposite is true and I can easily show why. His arguments are so bad, they are laughable. And I don't mean this to be facetious, I mean this with all seriousness. He makes so many common argumentative mistakes and factual errors that I cannot take him seriously that he has a degree in philosophy and science. If he does have a degree, he should get a refund, because he apparently learned no serious critical thinking skills because of it. His arguments are on the caliber of the same old tired internet apologist, like the many wannabe William Lane Craig clones out there. Only he's at the low end of the spectrum.

If you're wondering why my posts denigrate him so harshly it's because he mocks atheists and calls atheism stupid. Here I'm just giving him a taste of his own medicine.

I continue with part 4 covering arguments 10 and 11. Starting with his response to argument 10, his words are in block quotes.


10) Euthyphro's trilemma


And now we come to the Euthypho trilemma, one of my favorite areas to debate.

I wrote that Euthyphro's dilemma works with monotheism as well as polytheism. He ignorantly writes back saying,

It actually does not. The Euthyphro dilemma originates from Greece where polytheism was the norm. Euthyphro himself was a priest of a polytheistic sect. If he were alive today, he would not understand the argument the author is making and will probably be upset at the distortion the author is giving the dilemma that bears his name. 

The argument's logic is not dependent on polytheism, and Euthyphro would recognize the argument in a monotheistic context. In fact, the argument makes more sense on monotheism, because then there is only one god in which morality could be dependent on, instead of a council of gods, who might have conflicting views. It is irrelevant that the argument got started in a polytheistic culture. That Sacerdotus doesn't know this proves he can't possibly have a degree in philosophy.

Furthermore, I did not simply state "God is good." I wrote more than the author acknowledges. We can assume why he/she does not acknowledge my refutation. He/she cannot address it. Once again, the author restates his/her faulty premise.  

Um no. Let's review what he originally wrote in his response:

In reality, the atheist is the one who has the problem. God is good. God is the fullness of goodness and love. God is love (1 John 4:8). Goodness and love do not exist as separate entities from God.

All that does is assert the same idea: "God is good." It doesn't prove any of the assertions, it just asserts it! Prove god is good. Go ahead. Go do it. Quoting the Bible doesn't prove squat. Also, explain to my why is god good. Is god good because "God is love" as you state in 1 John? Then that means love is good independently of god. If love isn't good independently of god, then the burden of proof is on Sacerdotus to show why. He needs to tell us why love is good. You see, Sacerdotus is a typically lazy internet apologist. He literally thinks he can just say "God is good" and "God is love" and think that settles it. Oh my. I guess since some internet apologist with a fake degree said god is good then that settles it! Atheism is false! How imbecilic he is. The atheist has no problem here because the theist has no evidence. They just assert a claim and think they've won. The trilemma is unavoidable. If you can't explain why god is good you can't demonstrate the claim. And you can't explain why god is good without showing goodness exists independently of god.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Sacerdotus Is (Even More) Stupid (Than Previously Thought) Pt. 3


Author's note: I know I just wrote that I'd be spending more time writing about social issues and lay off atheism for a bit, but a recent attempt to rebut my blog post on why I'm an atheist got my attention and prompted me to make a response. I'll get back to social issues when this is done.



A supposed "philosopher" who challenged me on my post Why I'm An Atheist, wrote a follow up to my follow up, and in it he claims again, that's he's refuted me and that I'm ignorant of science and philosophy. The exact opposite is true and I can easily show why. His arguments are so bad, they are laughable. And I don't mean this to be facetious, I mean this with all seriousness. He makes so many common argumentative mistakes and factual errors that I cannot take him seriously that he has a degree in philosophy and science. If he does have a degree, he should get a refund, because he apparently learned no serious critical thinking skills because of it. His arguments are on the caliber of the same old tired internet apologist, like the many wannabe William Lane Craig clones out there. Only he's at the low end of the spectrum.


Here I continue with part 3 covering arguments 7, 8, and 9. Starting with his response to argument 7, his words are in block quotes:


7) Brute facts are unavoidable


Next he continues falsely accuses me of plagiarism, saying,

Yes, that is what the word plagarize means.  The author wrote word-for-word an article from Wikipedia. Note, Wikipedia is not a valid source.  Anyone can edit it. Universities frown upon it and automatically fail students who use it as a source. The fact that this author derives his/her content from Wikipedia shows academic sloth. 

No I didn't. I merely copied the trilemma itself from the article in order to list it, that is different from plagiarizing an article. To plagiarize is to "take (the work or an idea of someone else) and pass it off as one's own." I didn't do that, and he even admits I never stated that I tried to pass it off as my own. That means his plagiarize claim fails. Wikipedia simply lists the trilemma so that he and everyone else can understand it, since it's obvious he's ignorant of it (despite his supposed degree!). It isn't to prove the trilemma is true. Wikipedia is actually a great resource for learning philosophy. Sacerdotus would learn a lot more if he spent more time on it. It's clear he has no thirst for truth. All he does is try and defend his preexisting views, albeit, really badly.

The Munchausen’s trilemma (also known as Agrippa's trilemma which goes all the way back to Diogenes) is a well known trilemma that everyone with a philosophy degree should known about. Apparently that's not Sacerdotus. Even his former professor Dr. Pigliucci affirms it, so it's hard for me to believe he has an actual degree. He's just so ignorant of basic philosophy it can't be real. Dr. Pigliucci for example writes,

Munchausen’s trilemma is a reasonable conclusion arrived at by logical reasoning. 

In other words, the trilemma is logically unavoidable and most, if not all people who are actually familiar with philosophy are aware of this thorny problem.

Moreover, I never stated that the author discovered the trilemma. He/she is clearly lying here. Nor did I claim that he/she claims God has an immutable nature etc.  This author clearly has reading comprehension problems. I stated that the author does not understand theology and the immutable nature of God. This is why his/her argument fails. The author claims that "God's will to create this universe is not necessary.." this premise is baseless. 

I didn't say he accused me directly of discovering the trilemma. If you accuse someone of plagiarizing, which again means to take (the work or an idea of someone else) and pass it off as one's own, then this implies that I tried to pass the trilemma off on my own. Because if I didn't try to pass it off as my own, then I didn't plagiarize. That's Sacerdotus's dilemma. Either I tried to pass it off as my own and I plagiarized, or I didn't try to pass it off as my own and I didn't plagiarize. He can't accuse me of plagiarizing material while acknowledging I didn't try to pass it off as my own.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Sacerdotus Is (Even More) Stupid (Than Previously Thought) Pt. 2


Author's note: I know I just wrote that I'd be spending more time writing about social issues and lay off atheism for a bit, but a recent attempt to rebut my blog post on why I'm an atheist got my attention and prompted me to make a response. I'll get back to social issues when this is done.



A supposed "philosopher" who challenged me on my post Why I'm An Atheist, wrote a follow up to my follow up, and in it he claims again, that's he's refuted me and that I'm ignorant of science and philosophy. The exact opposite is true and I can easily show why. His arguments are so bad, they are laughable. And I don't mean this to be facetious, I mean this with all seriousness. He makes so many common argumentative mistakes and factual errors that I cannot take him seriously that he has a degree in philosophy and science. If he does have a degree, he should get a refund, because he apparently learned no serious critical thinking skills because of it. His arguments are on the caliber of the same old tired internet apologist, like the many wannabe William Lane Craig clones out there. Only he's at the low end of the spectrum.


Here I continue with part 2 covering arguments 3, 4, 5, and 6.Starting with his response to argument 3, his words are in block quotes:

3) Causality doesn't exist in the way we think it does


He writes,

Yes, the author does not understand causality.  

I understand causality way better than Sacerdotus does. Notice how he doesn't even bother to attempt to define causality. And notice that his assumption of causality presupposes presentism, which he has not ever even attempted to justify (because he's too ignorant to know he's even presupposed it!).

Yes, there is a consensus that the universe had a cause. This is taught in all cosmology, physics and astronomy courses.  Clearly, the author has never taken any of the aforementioned.

Prove it. Prove the universe had a cause. I asked him to show evidence for that in my last response post, and he still has provided no evidence. Better yet, he needs to define what he means by "causality." I defined what I mean by it, he has not. He's begging the question. This is an utter failure on Sacerdotus's part to demonstrate he's logical and knows how to debate. I've provided ample evidence for my claims, he's provided very little or none for his. Also, I took physics and astronomy courses. There was no mention of the universe having a cause. None. He's also not understanding the usage of "cause" in the colloquial sense versus what it really means to most physicists. He's confusing the colloquial cause with the scientific cause in the same way creationists confuse the colloquial "theory" with the scientific theory.

The author claims that I showed no evidence, yet in my previous post I provided the paragraph the author quoted with a hyperlink. Once again, the author misapplies the argument ad populum. The aforementioned is coined for criticism against common belief, not scientific fact. In science, a consensus is needed. This is why the peer review system exists. This is how science checks and balances itself. We see once again that this author simply is aloof to the facts.

Sacerdotus never provided any evidence that the universe had a cause, which is the thing in question. He provided a link to an article from Cern saying the universe shouldn't exist, but that's completely irrelevant. Yet another failure on his part to be logical and rational. You can't tell me I'm out of line with a consensus when you provide zero evidence for a consensus. My views are actually the mainstream view. Sacerdotus is too ignorant to realize that because all he knows is popular level apologetics.

The author then appeals to Sean Carroll in order to avoid addressing my reply. He/she does not realize that Sean Carroll is giving his personal opinion and does not even offer data or statistics to back up his claims. If you look at the pdf file linked, there is no data. It is just an essay that he wrote. Give me a break.

Carroll is just giving his opinion. He believes that events do not have purpose or causes, but does not show why. 

Wait, so when I quote a scientist, I'm just giving his "opinion," but when Sacerdotus quotes a scientist, it's somehow scientific fact? Give me a break. Look at that double standard. Carroll isn't giving his option. He's explain how, from his decades as a physicist working on cosmology and a fundamental understanding of the universe, there is no causality in the way people normally define the term. He explains this in the paper he wrote, that what we think of causes are really just

a description of the relationship between patterns and boundary conditions....If we know the state of a system at one time, and the laws governing its dynamics, we can calculate the state of the system at some later time. You might be tempted to say that the particular state at the first time “caused” the state to be what it was at the second time; but it would be just as correct to say that the second state caused the first.

Carroll further explains this in his excellent book, The Big Picture, and in his many talks and lectures. See here where I fast forwarded his talk to the relevant section on causality:



Sunday, November 19, 2017

Sacerdotus Is (Even More) Stupid (Than Previously Thought) Pt. 1


Author's note: I know I just wrote that I'd be spending more time writing about social issues and lay off atheism for a bit, but a recent attempt to rebut my blog post on why I'm an atheist got my attention and prompted me to make a response. I'll get back to social issues when this is done.


A supposed "philosopher" who challenged me on my post Why I'm An Atheist, wrote a follow up to my follow up, and in it he claims again, that's he's refuted me and that I'm ignorant of science and philosophy. The exact opposite is true and I can easily show why. His arguments are so bad, they are laughable. And I don't mean this to be facetious, I mean this with all seriousness. He makes so many common argumentative mistakes and factual errors that I cannot take him seriously that he has a degree in philosophy and science. If he does have a degree, he should get a refund, because he apparently learned no serious critical thinking skills because of it. His arguments are on the caliber of the same old tired internet apologist, like the many wannabe William Lane Craig clones out there. Only he's at the low end of the spectrum.

The supposed philosopher's pen name is Sacerdotus and he accuses me of nothing more than ad hominem attacks. This is false, and a common misunderstanding of what an ad hominem attack is. An ad hominem attack is when you attack your opponent instead of attacking their arguments. I attacked his arguments, quite successfully, in addition to attacking his character. So I made no ad hominem attacks because I addressed his sad excuses for an argument, quite successfully. The reason why I call him stupid in most post (aside from being accurate, is because he calls atheism stupid. I'm giving him a taste of his own medicine, and he calls it an ad hominem! The irony.

I'm going to refute his attempt at refuting my refutation to show how he still just doesn't get it, and is making the same mistakes over and over. His words will appear in block quotes. In the beginning of his post he writes,

As Socrates said, "When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser."  Well, we now see the loser show his/her face via ad hominem, so to speak.  He even calls me "gay," which shows he clearly is the losing party.

I called him gay because he is gay, not because it is a slander, and he's a Catholic who defends the church. I find that relevant. If you're going to defend a church that for centuries tried to destroy your existence, that is telling and relevant. If he's not actually gay, then I apologize.

Notice how his replies are just a restatement of his/her previous errors already refuted and how he/she avoids addressing my refutation directly.  I will once again re-refute his/her nonsense and show how they are false when vetted against science, philosophy, and theology just as I have before.  

The point is he didn't actually refute my original arguments. And so what I did was I just explained them further with more insight into why his responses didn't refute them. My arguments mostly went right over his head because they're too sophisticated for him, despite his supposed (and apparently useless) degree in philosophy. My arguments are the culmination of years and years debating theism and they are not entry-level arguments. They rely on a deep understanding of science and philosophy, like a deep understanding of special relativity, which Sacerdotus clearly doesn't have because he doesn't understand at all what special relativity implies for our understanding of time and causality.

So let me refute his attempt at a rebuttal one by one to show (very easily) how his arguments all completely fail. This will be done over several parts throughout this week. Starting with my first argument:

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Sacerdotus Is Stupid



A gay theist (gaytheist?) on the internet attempted to refute my recent post explaining why I'm an atheist. He claims it was "easy" and that I show a lack of understanding of science and philosophy! Ha! Nothing can be further from the truth. It's he who lacks in-depth understanding of physics, philosophy, religion, and atheism, and a refutation of his "refutation" was really easy for me, albeit just time consuming.

But since I'm off work for the next few days and I'm bored at home (it's freezing outside!) let me for the record refute his pathetic attempt at a refutation.

Here's his attempt at a refutation of my argument number 1. My original arguments can be read here.

1) The traditional notion of god isn't coherent


He responds:

The author here runs on a strawman argument. He simply does not understand the concept of God. The author assumes that God is subject to his terms or the terms of the understandings of man; that is to say, how we perceive and understand everything. He claims that theists resort to special pleading to address what he claims to be contradictions. However, he is doing exactly that. He argues that change requires times and fails to back this up. We know from cosmology that there was no time prior to cosmic inflation. Time is a product that came into existence after the "big bang." Despite this, a change did take place. If change did not take place, there would have been no "big bang" event. Moreover, the author fails to understand that God is a being, not a mere concept. This being is beyond all, transcends all. No theist, no atheist, no theologian or pope can ever truly understand God or explain Him. St. Augustine tried and experienced a vision of his angel as a young boy who was at the shore trying to put the ocean in a small hole in the sand. The boy went to and fro collecting water in a shell until St. Augustine stopped him and inquired as to what the boy was trying to do. The boy said he was trying to put the entire ocean in the hole he dug. St. Augustine brushed it off as a something that came out of a babe's mouth and explained that it was not possible for the ocean to be poured into a small hole. The boy replied that neither can he put the entirety of God into his mind.

Every time I'm told that a person has "refuted" atheism I'm sadly disappointed. This is one of those times. Here I'm clearly saying god is subject to logic. As I clearly wrote in the post, "god cannot do the logically impossible or be the logically impossible." These aren't my terms and conditions, or the limitations of human intellect, this is our ability to be logical. Deny this, and you throw all of logic out the window. That includes your ability to logically "prove" atheism false - or anything else. That change requires time is obvious and certain. To change requires two states of being that cannot exist at the same time, otherwise you'd get a contradiction: A = ¬A. This is logically impossible. That this guy doesn't understand that means he fails logic 101, and that means his assessment of the rest of the argument fails. This is why I like to get all theists to agree beforehand that god is not beyond logic. I do this because - exactly as I predict - theists resort to special pleading to explain away god's inconsistence. When he says god "is beyond all, transcends all. No theist, no atheist, no theologian or pope can ever truly understand God or explain Him," he is resorting to special pleading. If you can't coherently explain god, you can't coherently say god exists. This guy fails to do that. His response to argument 1 completely fails and did exactly what I predicted.

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.

Given the necessary rules of logic the traditional attributes of god are incoherent:

P1. It is logically impossible to do something without doing something.
P2. It is logically impossible to do something without change (even if everything is immaterial).
P3. It is logically impossible for change to exist without time.
C. As such, a timeless, changeless being cannot do anything.

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.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Another Reason Why The Claim "Goodness Is Grounded In God" Fails


Suppose I have five different theists who each believe in five different gods with varying moral attributes before me. They each argue that goodness is grounded in god and that without god there is no way to have objective moral values.

One by one they make their case and describe their god's moral attributes — one god loves homosexuals, the other four hate homosexuals; three are highly jealous, the other two humble; three say eating meat is immoral, the other two are indifferent to meat eating; two of them think men and women are equal, the other three say men are superior to women; three of them think abortion is justified, the other two say it isn't.

Suppose I'm also told by all believers that all of the gods share the same basic properties that the traditional notion of god has: timeless, changeless, immaterial mind, who also must be infinitely good, infinitely wise, and can do anything logically possible.


How can I ground moral goodness in "God" when I have multiple gods who each ground different and incompatible moral values — without having an objective standard that exists independently of all these gods that I can use to assess them by?

You see, telling me that god grounds goodness does nothing to tell me what goodness actually is and how I can identify goodness from non-goodness. It states an unintelligible, circular argument: God is goodness, and goodness is god.

Each theist tries to tell me that only their god grounds goodness, and not the others. But going by the whole notion of "God" grounding goodness, there is no way for me to tell which one actually is without an objective standard independently of god. I certainly can't rely on my moral intuitions. Moral intuitions are often culturally relative, and will be different in different people.

For this, any many other reasons, the notion that goodness is grounded in god fails.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Islam, Tolerance, and how to have The Conversation


This is the second panel discussion at the Left Forum 2017 which is on a favorite topic of mine: Islam. More specifically, how do we as liberals criticize the bad parts of the religion, without being labeled racist, anti-Muslim bigots? This is a question most liberals struggle to answer. So here, my friends and I, including a former Muslim friend of mine, have what I think amounts to a positive constructive dialogue with a class full of liberals at one of the largest gathering of liberals.

I hope that the word is getting out regarding the problems with the regressive leftist behavior, and that it can actually fuel the Far Right, which is the very thing we don't want. The Left needs to police itself. Liberals are not going to listen to the Right when it comes to the legitimate criticism of the Left. They will only listen to other liberals. And that's why this is important.


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Prison & Criminal Justice Reform


Since over 95% of prisoners will eventually be released, you have to ask yourself, do you want them to adjust back to society and stop committing crimes when they leave prison, or do you want them to continue reoffending? And do you want lower rates of crime in the future or more?

If the latter, then we should pretty much keep doing what we're doing, because the recidivism rate in the US is 76.6% after five years for state prisons and 44.9% for federal prisoners. So if your goal is to get as many people in prison as we can, and get as many of them as we can to commit more crimes upon release, you have to admit, we're doing a pretty good job. In fact, it wouldn't be absurd to blame someone for thinking that was indeed American's goal. We have the largest prison population in the world, by far, nearly double that of the next country on the list, China, which has four times our population. 


I don't think that anyone in their right mind would say what the US is doing now as far as its prison and criminal justice situation is what it should be doing. The fact of the matter is is that most of us agree with the same over all goals for our society: we want there to be less crime, and we want criminals who do go to prison to not commit additional crimes when they're released. Where we disagree is on how to achieve that common goal. 

Many Americans support retributive justice that often involve harsh penalties with a "lock them up and throw away the key" attitude where the conditions in prison should be as uncomfortable as possible. But this leads to the mass incarceration we have in the US with the high recidivism rates which are the very problems we want to resolve. So what do we do?

We reform our criminal justice system and our prisons. How do we do that? Here are some things we can do.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Importance Of Understanding Weak Emergence In Moral Ontology


I've been somewhat obsessed recently over the idea of weak emergence in understanding how all the layers of ontology fit into one another. This is an area that I think trips up so many people, both atheist and theist alike.

One reason why is that many people will think that naturalism entails that only the most fundamental layer of ontology has an sort of real status of existence. This view is known as eliminative materialism. Alex Rosenberg, a prominent atheist philosopher, told me back in 2015 that he thinks eliminative materialism is the logical and inevitable outcome of a naturalistic ontology. On this view only the most fundamental constituents that science tells us exist are real. Everything else is an illusion. That means people don't exist, color doesn't exist, solidity doesn't exist, and consciousness doesn't exist. In other words, all higher level phenomena has no ontological status whatsoever. If it isn't fundamental, it's an illusion.

Contrast that with the view that physicist Sean Carroll proposes, which he calls poetic naturalism. It's poetic because there are "many ways of talking about the world." We can talk about the universe in terms of fermions and bosons or we can talk about it in terms of people and societies. In other words, the emergent world of people, plants, animals, color, solidity, consciousness, countries, and economies—all the higher level phenomena—exist, at least in a certain sense. They don't "exist" in exactly in the same way that fermions and bosons exist. They exist as higher level emergent phenomena. However, some things really are illusions. Free will, souls, and the flow of time really are illusions, because they require certain things to exist fundamentally that don't; they can't truly be said to have any kind of real ontological status. Compatibilistic free will, which acknowledges that there isn't any real libertarian free will, is another matter. Bottom line, one has to understand how and why some emergent phenomena are or aren't illusions.

The major problems with this arise from our innate inability at understanding emergence; it's not at all intuitive and it's also extremely complex, generally requiring exceptional knowledge in both science and philosophy, which, let's be honest, most people don't have. And that's why so many people, both atheists and theists, even those reasonably knowledgeable in either science or philosophy, come to the conclusion that naturalism entails eliminative materialism.

Richard Dawkins echos this sentiment in one famous quote from his 1995 book River Out of Eden, saying, "In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.” (p. 133)

Saturday, October 22, 2016

An Atheist Reviews The Last Superstition: A Refutation Of The New Atheism (Chapter 5 Decent of the Modernists - Part 1: Pre-birth of the modern & Thoroughly modern metaphysics)


iconIn chapter 5, titled the Decent of the Modernists, Feser explains his discontent on how rejecting A-T metaphysics has ultimately lead to the modern preponderance among academics (and I suppose society in general) of the secular and atheistic mindsets. Public enemy number one seems to be the "father of modern philosophy" himself, Rene Descartes (1596-1650). It was he, along with his predecessors John Duns Scotus, and William of Ockham, the latter of whom helped foster nominalism and conceptualism to rival Aristotle and Plato's two versions of realism, lead to the "undoing of the Scholaic tradition". (167)

Pre-birth of the modern

According to Feser, both Scotus and Ockham's views on metaphysics and god lead them to conclude that god cannot be known through reason, and must be believed on faith. In other words, god's existence cannot be proved, they contend, and since Descartes' time this general theological view which rejects A-T metaphysics in favor of a more mechanistic view of nature has dominated Western thought. This, Feser says, is what many of the New Atheists pick up on in their critique of theism in general. Feser spends several pages on Hitchens' book god is not Great, criticizing his alleged ignorance of Ockham's razor. Feser argues that versions of it previously were addressed by Aquinas himself and even Aristotle. That may be so, but it doesn't show that change, causation, and final causality necessarily entail "God" — who is dispensed by the razor. Adding god into the mix just adds more unanswerable questions and logical problems.

Scotus' skepticism, Feser says, is motivated by an emphasis on god's will over his intellect.

So radically free is God's will, in Scotus's view, that we simply cannot deduce from the natural order either His intentions or any necessary features of the things He created, since He might have created them in any number of ways, as His inscrutable will directed. Ockham pushes this emphasis on the divine will further, holding that God could by fiat have made morally obligatory all sorts of things that are actually immoral; for example, had He wanted to, He could have decided to command us to hate Him, in which case this is what would be good for us to do. Thus we are brought by Ockham to the idea that morality rests on completely arbitrary demands rather than rationally ascertainable human nature. (168)

But wait a second. If god created that human nature, couldn't he have created us with a different nature, which would rationally entail a different kind of morality? Couldn't god, for example, have made humans reproduce by laying a large amount of eggs ensuring that only a few could possibly be raised to adulthood instead of giving birth to live young? What principle prevents god from doing that? In other words, was god's choice in creating our nature the way it is at all arbitrary, or is there some logically necessary reason why he created our nature the way it is? If so, what's that logically necessary reason? If not, then our morality is ultimately arbitrary even if it logically entails from our nature, because our nature itself would be arbitrary.

Feser takes a long swipe at Hitchens' critique of Ockham's views that we cannot prove a first cause with the traits typically associated with theism—omnipotence, omnibenevolence, omniscience, etc., and deal with the "unanswerable question of who designed the designer or created the creator." (god is not Great, p. 71) But this was answered "long before Ockham was born" Feser states. (170) This may be so, but it would make little difference to the question of god's existence if A-T metaphysics ultimately fails to make a convincing case proving a first cause with typical theistic traits must exist, as I think it does. I do agree with Feser that Hitchens does not engage deeply with the metaphysical arguments for god. God is not Great doesn't set out to disprove the existence of god, it's primary goal is to show how religion poisons everything by critiquing religious history, belief, traditions, and institutions, especially the Abrahamic religions. And I think it does a damn good job doing so. But Feser is focused on the metaphysical arguments, which you're not going to get in great detail with Hitchens, who was best at showing how absurd, stupid, and harmful religion is.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Quote Of The Day: The Dalai Lama On Secular Ethics



Who would suspect that the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism himself, the Dalai Lama, would be in favor of secular ethics, but he appears to get it like most of us atheists do. This is probably why I'm much more sympathetic to Buddhism than most other religions. He's absolutely right: secular ethics is foundational for having a thriving world community where multicultural societies exist.

For all its benefits in offering moral guidance and meaning in life, religion is no longer adequate as a basis for ethics. Many people no longer follow any religion. In addition, in today’s secular and multicultural societies, any religion-based answer to the problem of our neglect of inner values could not be universal, and so would be inadequate. We need an approach to ethics that can be equally acceptable to those with religious faith and those without. We need a secular ethics.
 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

My 1 Year Anniversary As A Vegetarian


This past August I reached my one year anniversary of becoming a vegetarian. I've only broken my vow not to eat any meat a few times: once on Thanksgiving, twice when I was at a restaurant that only served meat and I had a tuna melt, and one other time when I was starving and was offered beef dumplings and I just ate it. Other than that it's been no meat or fish for over a year.

I'm often asked why I'm a vegetarian by people I know and I always relish in the opportunity to explain why. There are two main reasons why I've given up eating meat and fish.

First is the moral argument. I do not want to support an industry, whether it's at the industrial scale or not, that kills animals and often tortures them in horrible living conditions. By not eating meat and encouraging others to do so, I will help reduce demand and that will hopefully shrink the industry as a whole, with the goal of putting it out of business entirely. A moral society simply cannot support the systematic torture and death of sentient animals for our pleasure.

The second reason is the sustainability argument. Animal agriculture is responsible for 91% of the amazon rain forest destruction, 51% of global greenhouse emissions are due to livestock and their byproducts, three out of four of the world's fisheries are exploited, and for every one pound of fish caught five pounds of marine animals are unintentionally caught and killed as by-kill. In short, an ever increasing population of humans eating meat is environmentally unsustainable. A vegetarian or vegan lifestyle is necessary.

So for these two primary reasons I have given up eating meat and fish, and I can tell you, I definitely feel better and more ethical as a person after doing so. I'm am trying to walk the walk on ethics, and not just talk the talk, but I'd be a liar if I said it was easy.

Unfortunately, I read recently that about 86% of vegetarians eventually go back to eating meat. That means I'm statistically likely to go back to eating meat at some point in my future. Maintaining a vegetarian lifestyle is really hard. There are synthetic meats that are on the horizon, that may be economically viable in the next 10 years. If they can take off, I will certainly consider eating their meat. I'm not a vegetarian because I don't like the taste of meat. I love the taste of meat. If I could eat meat without animals being tortured and killed and without the negative environmental impact, I would. Synthetic meat could make this possible. It could also put the existing animal agricultural industry out of business through market competition. But we'll have to see what happens.


Sunday, August 28, 2016

Sam Harris On Racism And Police Brutality Asks A Tough Question


I just listened to Sam Harris's recent podcast with Brown University professor Glenn C. Loury on racism and police brutality. You can listen to that below if you haven't already. One interesting question Harris asks Loury is that given how African-Americans are about 13% of the total US population, yet in 2013 accounted for 52% of all Murders and nonnegligent manslaughter arrests, 56% of robbery arrests, 31% of rape arrests, and 33.9 % of aggravated assault arrests, and were less than 25% of those killed by the police according to The Guardian as of today in 2016 (and 26% for all of 2015), what should the number and percentage of African-Americans killed by the police be?

Now Harris didn't use these same exact statistics but they are in line with his point that African-Americans are over-represented in criminal arrests. It seems to me that African-Americans are under-represented in the percentage of them being killed by police when you factor in their arrest rates. In other words, we should expect at least 40 or 50% of those killed by the police to be African-American, not 25%. Is this true? What other relevant factors am I leaving out? It's an interesting question that I'm sure many on the left will find challenging. Professor Loury in the podcast said he didn't know the answer to that question, but it's worth an answer.





P.S. I still think Chris Rock got it right more than a decade ago when he made his video How To Not Get Your Ass Kicked By The Police. It's worth another watch in light of this increased focus on police brutality and killings.


Friday, August 26, 2016

Biblical Slavery For Foreigners Part III: The Micro Argument


I just wrote a lengthy follow up to my original post on biblical slavery for foreigners where I critiqued a popular Christian rebuttal but I realized that I needed a micro version of the argument that the Bible allows for conditions that meet the definition of slavery. I also want to list some of the most common responses I hear from Christians defending the view that the Bible doesn't condone slavery. So below is a micro argument that argues that the Bible does indeed condone slavery and it can be copied and pasted by anyone who wants to use it in an online debate. The agenda is as follows: (1) start with defining slavery, (2) show how the Bible allows for conditions that meet the definition of slavery, and (3) rebut a few common points and preempt as many common responses one often hears.

The Argument


The goal of this argument is to make the case that the Bible condoned conditions that amount to what we'd properly call slavery. Slavery can be generally defined as follows:

1. The condition in which one person is owned as property by another and is under the owner's control, especially in involuntary servitude.
2. (Law) the state or condition of being a slave; a civil relationship whereby one person has absolute power over another and controls his life, liberty, and fortune
3. The subjection of a person to another person, esp in being forced into work

So at least two conditions have to be met in order to properly be called slavery: (1) The person has to be forced into the position against their will, and (2) the person has to be made to perform some kind of labor, and paid nothing or next to nothing, for a certain amount of time, up to life. This would not generally include people punished for crimes in a just court of law. If anything meets these two conditions, it can be properly called slavery. I will argue that the Bible allowed for situations that meet these conditions.

In the Old Testament foreign slaves could be acquired by war, purchase, or birth. Deut. 20:12-14 says that the Israelites could force the inhabitants of the region they call their "Promised Land" as well as "all the cities that are at a distance from [them] and do not belong to the nations nearby" into forced servitude if they surrender their land and belongings. If they don't surrender, their towns will be besieged and their men will be killed and the women and children can be taken as booty. In Judges 1:28-34 it even says the Israelites forced the Canaanites, the Naphtalites, and the Amorites into servitude, all while the "LORD was with them." 1 Kings 9:21 tells of how King Solomon conscripted foreign tribes who the Israelites couldn't exterminate "to serve as slave labor" building temples, palaces, and the walls of towns. And to distinguish the rules between Hebrews and non-Hebrews, Leviticus 25:44-46 specifies that foreign slaves are not to be freed after the 7th year as a Hebrew servants do, they serve for life and can be inherited as property. This meets both of the conditions for slavery above in that under Old Testament law (1) persons could be forced into the position of subordination or property to another person against their will, or be born into that position, and (2) made to perform unpaid labor.

It is important to note that this argument is not trying to say that all conditions of servitude in the Bible meet the conditions of slavery. Much of it was what can properly be called indentured servitude. This argument is an in principle argument that resolves the question of whether any conditions allowed for under Old Testament Mosaic law meets the conditions for slavery. That is a very important point one has to be aware of when responding to this argument.

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