Showing posts with label William Lane Craig. Show all posts
Showing posts with label William Lane Craig. Show all posts

Friday, July 6, 2018

"I Didn't Ask To Be Born" — A Reply To William Lane Craig

It's been a while since I've critiqued our old friend William Lane Craig, but I saw something on Twitter that got my eye. It was a link to a Reasonable Faith podcast from 2013 where Craig responds to a question over whether hell is justified given that each of us didn't ask to be born.

The questioner asked,

Dr. Craig, in what way is it justifiable for a single person to suffer hell when that person could ultimately say, “When did I ask to be born? I didn’t choose to be born. When did I choose this responsibility?” or “I don’t want to have lived,” as in, not suffer hell or enjoy heaven, just never have existed. Is it fair that we never were given that option?

Craig responds:

Dr. Craig: Yes, well, and we are; we are that way. But when you think about it, it could be no other way. It’s incoherent to say that we could be given the option to exist because if we are given the option to choose then we already exist – right? – so it’s logically impossible to give someone the option whether or not he wants to come into being. So it’s up to God; God is the one who chooses whom to create, whom to thrust into existence, and this is not unfair because this is a tremendous gift – the gift of existence, the gift of life. It is a tremendous blessing to exist, and to find the fulfillment of that existence in relationship with the infinite God, the paradigm of absolute goodness and love. It is what we were made for. The tragedy, Kevin, is that so many find themselves, given this gift of existence, existence is bestowed upon them, and then they squander it by ignoring God’s drawing and conviction to come to him and come to know him. They thrust life from them by holding God at arm’s length. And for them existence becomes a curse when, in fact, it was a tremendous blessing and ought to be a tremendous blessing, if they will only receive it.

As usual, I take issue with Craig's answer. Assuming a god exists with middle knowledge and divine foreknowledge, which Craig believes god has, god knows all counter factual possibilities and all future events, including what you would think and do before you're born. Which means, given god's middle knowledge and foreknowledge, god knows if you would have wanted to be born before you were born. He also knows whether or not you would "come to him and come to know him" before you were born.

Hence, it is false to say that it "could be no other way." Or that it's "incoherent to say that we could be given the option to exist." It's perfectly coherent given god's middle knowledge and foreknowledge. God would know all possible people who could be born and know if they would come to him or if they would not, before they were born. And that means to say it's incoherent is to necessarily deny middle knowledge and divine foreknowledge.

This has other implications as well. It is logically possible for god to only create people he knows will come to him, but god doesn't do that. God instead knowingly creates people that will be destined to hell (a hell that he created), and that wouldn't have wanted to be born. That is the real tragedy. And that is not a being I can say is worthy of being called the greatest conceivable being or having anyone's love, especially mine.

So in the end, Craig's response — as always — fails to address the issue.

*Middle knowledge is the view that god can know all possible future contingent events without any sort of perception of the world. Divine Foreknowledge is the view that god knows all future events before they happen due to omniscience. 

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.

Monday, January 2, 2017

My Blog Posts On Special Relativity

Here a quick link page to all my posts on special relativity. Some are educational, some are used in arguments, but all can be used to help you understand the theory better.

Monday, December 19, 2016

A Response To Craig On Fine Tuning

On a question of the week over on the Reasonable Faith site a questioner asks Dr. Craig about Sean Carroll's response to the fine tuning argument he made during their debate on God and Cosmology back in 2014. Craig wrote a lengthy response to Carroll's rebuttal and I want to examine his response and show why I think it's wrong.

At one point during Carroll's rebuttal, Carroll argued that god doesn't need fine tuning; it's a necessity only on naturalism since only material beings could live under the right physical conditions but that god would be able to create life without physical fine tuning (like through perpetual miracles), very similar to what I wrote earlier this year in my short rebuttal to the fine tuning argument.

Initially, Craig is confused as to what Carroll's argument is an objection to. He doesn't know if it's supposed to defend physical necessity or chance, which are the only other options Craig says that exist, other than design. Craig writes,

Of course, the theist thinks that God could have miraculously sustained life or perhaps created a universe operating according to different laws of nature which were not fine-tuned. But how does that do anything to subvert the argument? When it is said that were the values of the constants and quantities found in nature to be altered, life would not exist, one is implicitly assuming ceteris paribus conditions—“all else being equal,” that is to say, assuming no miraculous interventions take place. This is, after all, an argument aimed at showing the explanatory inadequacy of naturalism, not at showing that God could have created the universe in only one way.

It's not really supposed to defend either physical necessity or chance. It's supposed to show the vacuousness of theism as an explanation of fine tuning. It's offensive, not defensive. The argument that god could have created a universe that wasn't fine tuned for life, yet still had life in it would literally be a miracle, and that would be good evidence for god since physical science wouldn't be able to explain how life could exist under such inhospitable conditions. On naturalism it's not an option that life exist without the right physical conditions for it, it's a necessity that it does. But a god wouldn't need to do this. God is not constrained by the laws of physics. If god wanted to leave us good evidence he exists, he had the option of creating life via some kind of perpetual miracle, inexplicable in principle to the natural sciences.

As far as assuming ceteris paribus conditions, doing so assumes that god isn't doing the very thing he could do to show naturalism is false: give us proof life is a miracle. And because debates of theism involve the potentiality of a miracle as an explanation, in this instant it's not wise to assume ceteris paribus conditions.

Contrary to what Craig writes, this inclusion of god's ability to create life via miracles does indeed help the naturalist's case because this would have been the best option for god to show us he exists because it would rule out all possible naturalistic means to explain life. That would potentially be a knock-down argument for theism. Instead, the theist is basically saying god chose to create a universe with life in the one way it would have to exist if naturalism was true: physical life forms dependent on the right physical conditions for them to exist.

Why would a god do this? Well, perhaps god had no choice. Since free will is logically coherent, that applies to god as well. Being all knowing and all powerful does not get you out of the logical dilemma that libertarian free will necessitates. And since a timeless being must have a mind that never changes, god's decision to create our world would have to have existed eternally, with no other option being possible. So on theism here we are! No other world was technically possible. It just is.

Theism fails to have any explanatory power over naturalism.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Remembering Hitch Part 2: One Of His Strongest Arguments Against Theism

As I sit home on this blustery frigid night remembering Christopher Hitchens on this, the five year anniversary of his death, I'm reminded of how important his point of view was on the issues. Although many younger people learned of Hitchens from his involvement in the New Atheism movement, he had spent over 30 years as a journalist covering international affairs, economics, and social policies. He always had an interesting angle on the current events of the day that you might not have considered even if you typically agreed with him and he always knew how to explain it in brilliant prose. And it was from this that he was best known.

What would Hitchens have to say about the current state of affairs in US politics? Of Trump's election? Of ISIS and the war in Syria? Of trigger warnings, microaggressions, and safe spaces all over college campuses? Of PC culture and the rise of the Alt-Right? If Hitch was still writing for Vanity Fair would he and Trump get into a Twitter war? (Assuming Hitch would eventually make a Twitter account.) These are questions I've been asking myself over and over again these past few years. I know where Hitch would fall on most of them but I'd have no idea exactly what he'd write and I'm sure there'd be plenty of surprises if he were here speaking and writing about them.

We'll never know.

We do however, know Hitchens's views on religion pretty well. And on numerous occasions he made the following argument about the futility of reconciling the prolonged nastiness of the evolutionary process with the basic claims required of Abrahamic theism in light of it:

The argument takes the conservative estimate of how long our species has existed for. It may be over 300,000 years by some estimates, which would strengthen Hitchens's point considerably, but he opts for the low end to show it's enough to make his point. Is Hitchens correct in his assessment? And is this a good argument?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Quote Of The Day: William Lane Craig On The Use Of Reason

Today's quote comes from none other than Christian apologist extraordinaire William Lane Craig. In his apologetic handbook Reasonable Faith he writes about the "legitimate" use of reason:

The magisterial use of reason occurs when reason stands over and above the gospel like a magistrate and judges it on the basis of argument and evidence. The ministerial use of reason occurs when reason submits to and serves the gospel. In light of the Spirit's witness, only the ministerial use of reason is legitimate. Philosophy is rightly the handmaid of theology. Reason is a tool to help us better understand and defend our faith; as Anselm put it, ours is a faith that seeks understanding. A person who knows that Christianity is true on the basis of the witness of the Spirit may also have a sound apologetic which reinforces or confirms for him the Spirit's witness, but it does not serve as the basis of his belief. [1]

Let's briefly examine this. According to Craig, the only legitimate use of reason is in its ministerial sense of submitting to and serving the gospel. In other words, according to Craig, reason, argument, and evidence cannot exist outside of the gospel to judge the gospel on its veracity or to contradict it. Instead, reason, argument, and evidence only exist to serve the gospel's presupposed truth. The gospel basically determines what's reasonable. The basis of Christian belief according to Craig is not reason, argument, and evidence, it's the witness of the Spirit. That is, it's a warm fuzzy feeling one gets when they read the Bible, or "talk" or pray to Jesus and Yahweh. This is a horrible way to infer ontology, as I've written, and it goes to show you that all of Craig's evidentialist ramblings are really just a post hoc rationalization. 

[1] Craig, William Lane (2008-07-23). Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics (Kindle Location 686). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition. (Emphasis mine)

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Refuting William Lane Craig. Again.

I follow William Lane Craig on Twitter. Don't ask me why. I guess it's for laughs. Recently he linked a new podcast episode in which he critiques a conversation between Richard Dawkins and Ricki Gervais talking about science and god. The following is my critique of Craig's critique.

DR. CRAIG: The point was supposed to be that the world mediated to us by modern science is not bleak. But I don’t think that refutes the claim. When we talk about the bleakness of the world that is described solely by science, what one means is that this is a world which exists to no purpose, it will ultimately end in the heat death of the universe as the universe expands into a cold, lifeless, dark, and dilute condition from which it will never re-emerge. It puts a question mark behind the entire edifice of human civilization and accomplishment. All of the things that Gervais mentions as noble and good about humanity are all doomed to destruction in the heat death of the universe. That’s the bleakness of the worldview – of scientific naturalism. It has nothing to do with the fact that one can appreciate the beauty of a mountainside or art or music or something of that sort.

This is a point Craig brings up constantly. Why on earth should the heat death of the universe 10^100 years from now have any effect on me and my life now? Why should a pleasurable day I have with a loved one be at all diminished because a googol years from now the universe will reach maximum entropy? I've never understood this silly religious way of thinking. The edifice of human civilization and accomplishment is not effected one bit due to the heat death of the universe. It's completely and utterly irrelevant. And doing good and noble things only matters to sentient beings. There's no reason why it needs to last eternity to have value. This idea that what we do is meaningless if it doesn't last an eternity is assumed. It isn't a given truth. I see no logical reason why it must be the case. So this is really just Craig espousing his personal opinion of not liking the idea of an eventual universal heat death. It has no effect on me whatsoever and it shouldn't for you. A lot of this way of thinking has to do with Craig's early religious conversion sparked in part by his fear of death. I wasn't raised religious, and so to me, this way of thinking is totally alien. See my religion/heroin analogy and my religious dependence analogy.

DR. CRAIG: Dawkins himself has affirmed that we are just animated chunks of matter so on his own view (this demeaning view that we are just a bag of chemicals on bones) why is that troubling? Because it means that we are not rational free agents. We are just determined. There is no free will. There is no ability to reason rationally. We are just determined in everything that we do by our genetic makeup and the stimuli that we receive through our senses. That is, indeed, discouraging, I think. As Dawkins says in The God Delusion, there is no good, there is no evil, there is just pitiless indifference. We are machines for propagating DNA, and there isn’t anything more to our existence than that. I think that is a very depressing view of human existence.

Us being purely physical entities does not negate us being rational agents. We certainly can't be free in the libertarian sense, of course, but that's not dependent on physicalism at all. Libertarian free will is itself an incoherent concept, even if I grant you that we have non-physical souls for the sake of argument. And none of this, physicalism or not, negates our ability to reason rationally. Our ability to reason rationally is due to our complex evolved brains. Reasoning is dependent on the physical brain as all the evidence shows. And our brains and the thoughts it produces have to be caused by something. Without the brain having a causal relationship with its environment, it can't be rational. Our thoughts either have to have a cause or not. Those are our only two options we're stuck with. If they are caused they are determined. If they are uncaused they are spontaneous and it would only be a mere coincidence that they bore any resemblance to the external world. So far from negating rational thought, a determined universe is a rational one. I can't speak for Dawkins, but when he says the universe is pitiless, I think what he's saying is that from the universe's perspective, it's indifferent. The universe isn't a being; it doesn't care about us. The only thing that can care are living beings, like us. This means that goodness, evil, care, and neglect, are up to us. There is no need for the universe to be pitiful in order for goodness or evil to exist. This is yet another fallacy.

Monday, January 4, 2016

AnticitizenX's YouTube Page

A YouTuber who goes by the name of "anticitizenx" makes some pretty well made videos. Check out some of his videos below on a variety of philosophical and theological concepts. He hammers away at some of the obvious (as well as not so obvious) flaws in common theological arguments, like one of my favorites to debate, the moral argument.

What is Truth?

No, Really, What is Free Will?

Philosophical Failures of Christian Apologetics, Part 1: Why God Matters

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

An Atheist Reviews The Last Superstition: A Refutation Of The New Atheism (Chapter 3 Getting Medieval)

Feser starts chapter 3 lauding Aquinas' lifelong chastity and devotion to god, as if that's supposed to impress us. Religious obsessions with chastity always reminds me of how masochistic it is. There's also something about serious Catholics that I really don't like. I've always hated Catholicism, but it's hard to hate most Catholics today because most of them are so non-religious that they act almost indistinguishable from your average secular atheist. But the ones who take their religion seriously, like Feser, get me agitated. Feser is convinced his religion is true and wants the world to conform to it, and that's dangerous. I suppose then that it's a good thing he doesn't get much traction.

It's in chapter 3, called Getting Medieval, that Feser lays out his argument for god. He starts by making several insults about the New Atheists and their apparent failure to address the "greatest philosopher of the Middle Ages," especially Richard Dawkins, who is arguably the most famous atheist in the world. As a reminder once again, I haven't fully read The God Delusion, and so I unfortunately cannot speak on Dawkins' behalf. But, from what I did read, Dawkins does make a lot of common sense arguments against the belief in a theistic intervening god - the kind who ensures you have parking space at Walmart while he ignores the prayers of millions of kids starving to death. Hitchens' God is Not Great is really a critique of religion, specifically the Abrahamic ones. He doesn't really try and refute the existence of god per se. Perhaps this is a weakness, but I think his criticisms against Abrahamic theism are strong enough that no argument anyone can make could establish the probabilistic existence of Yahweh. The biblical god and the religions that derive from him are just too absurd to be taken seriously, even when Aquinas' arguments are met head on, as we're about to see.

Feser makes a big deal about the New Atheist's criticisms of William Paley's popular design argument. The reason why so many atheists mention Paley's argument is because it's a very popular argument that a lot of theists make. It's also a very simple argument; one doesn't need to learn complex, esoteric metaphysics like one has to do in order to understand Aquinas. That's why Paley's argument keeps coming up again and again, and the New Atheists (and atheists in general) have to make it a point to address it. Aquinas' arguments are generally too complex and require too much philosophical knowledge for your average wannabe apologist to successfully make. It's much easier for them to memorize the simple premises of the cosmological argument, or remember the scene involved in Paley's watchmaker analogy. It's fair to say that it isn't a straw man to attack design arguments of the Paley variety as Feser thinks on page 81. It's a legitimate argument for god, albeit a really bad one. No, a more proper straw man is like what Feser did in his opening chapter when he says your average secularist thinks strangling infants or fucking corpses or goats is perfectly normal in order to show how secularism is "irrational, immoral, and indeed insane," without even defining what he means by "secularism."

Feser's attitude seems to be that none of the New Atheist's arguments mean anything, until they refute Aquinas. And to be fair, the New Atheists have, by and large, not taken up Aquinas. Feser accuses secularists of swallowing "anything their gurus shovel at them." (80) But he must realize how absurd it is for him to make such a claim, when everyone knows it's organized religion that brainwashes its masses and requires its adherents make statements of faith, usually starting at childhood. And the Catholic Church is about as organized as organized religion can get.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

My Atheist Debate Dream Team

I love watching really good debates between theists and atheists, but many of them are lackluster. Last year's debate between Sean Carroll and William Lane Craig was a particularly good one when it came to the cosmological evidence for and against theism. But those kinds of debates are the exception. The one thing Sean Carroll can't do well is debate the historicity of Jesus, or morality. And for other atheist debaters like Richard Carrier, the one thing he can't do well is debate the fundamental cosmology theists try to use to argue for god. William Lane Craig for example can debate both of them well - in that he's got enough knowledge of each to make a case that appears convincing, even if it isn't.

That's where a group debate would come in handy. To entertain my debate fantasy, we'd have a three-on-three atheist vs Christianity team debate and on the atheist side I'd pick and choose who I'd want representing team atheism. Since cosmology always comes up in god debates, I'd have Sean Carroll on team atheism to handle cosmological questions. He's shown himself to be more than capable in that regard. There are many other cosmologists who could do the job, like Lawrence Krauss, but Krauss' disdain for and ignorance of philosophy is a strike against him. Carroll, though not a philosopher, is at least philosophically inclined. (He minored in philosophy as an undergrad.)

For Christian-specific questions, such as the historicity and resurrection of Jesus, I'd have Richard Carrier on team atheism. Over the years Carrier has demonstrated himself to be one of the world's foremost scholars in the field of Jesus mythicism. He knows Christianity and its historical context really well, and has the ability to debate them better than most. So I think he'd successfully be able to put to rest any claims that the evidence demonstrates Jesus existed and rose from the dead.

Lastly, besides cosmology and the arguments specifically for Christianity, Christians usually bring up either morality or the origin of life as their other preferred arguments. For morality, I'd consider AC Grayling, who is a moral philosopher, or Massimo Pigliucci, or maybe Michael Shermer. Matt Dillahunty is another good atheist debater, who could handle many of the non-scholarly stuff. For the origin of life I have no idea who can debate that sufficiently enough to drive the point that it doesn't need a god. So I'm not sure who I'd employ here. (Maybe Aron Ra?) Ideally, I'd pick someone who can do both morality and abiogenesis or evolution, and that might leave me with Pigliucci since he was a biologist turned philosopher. But this position might have to be decided depending on the Christian debaters. And if this is pure fantasy we're talking about, I'd have Christopher Hitchens between Sean Carroll and Richard Carrier. Though Hitchens was not a philosopher or scientist, he was really good at pointing out the bad things about religion and many of its non-obvious absurdities.

Who would be on team Christianity? Probably William Lane Craig. I'd definitely want him on it. Maybe Alvin Plantinga, JP Moreland, or Edward Feser, or David Wood. Who knows? The thing is Feser and Craig don't agree on a lot of metaphysical views, so I'm not sure they'd both be on team Christianity. I do know that a weakness of the atheist/theist debates is that there is no atheist version of William Lane Craig. There are atheists good at philosophy, but not science; there are atheists good at science but not philosophy, or decent at both but not history. Since to sufficiently debate god, you have to know physics, cosmology, biology, philosophy, history, and of course, religion, that is a lot of stuff to have to know. You by no means must be an expert in all of these subjects, but you have to be exceptionally familiar with each in order to be a good debater on the god topic. And since today there is no single atheist who can do this, only an atheist debate dream team could. If I had 100 million dollars I'd definitely use some of it to orchestrate such a debate.

If only.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Quote Of The Day: William Lane Craig Is Wrong On Cosmic Time

William Lane Craig really doesn't like the B-theory of time, also known as eternalism. He's written whole books and essays trying to debunk it and to promote the A-theory of time, also known as presentism. The reason why is clear. Craig's favorite go-to argument for god's existence is the kalam cosmological argument, and it presupposes the A-theory of time. In fact, on the B-theory, the argument is useless. So Craig has spent many calories trying as hard as he can to make the case for the A-theory. One of them is this notion that "cosmic time" allows us to have an objective reference frame, which is ruled out under special relativity which says that all reference frames are subjective. It's even convinced another atheist blogger at one point that the relativity of simultaneity doesn't imply a block universe and the eternalism that describes it. But this is wrong, as physicist Aron Wall writes on his blog:

Now it is true that on some specially nice spacetimes, there is a naturally nice choice of time coordinate. For example in an FRW expanding universe, there is a "cosmic time" coordinate which tracks the overall size (the "redshift factor") of the universe. Some philosophers, such as St. William Lane Craig, have suggested that God's "time" might simply be this "cosmic time".

But this is a misunderstanding of the physics of our universe. The FRW metric is a just an approximation to reality. It describes a universe which is completely uniform (the same in everywhere) and isotropic (the same in every direction). This is a very good approximation on large distance scales (billions of light years), but on shorter distance scales (e.g. the solar system, or the milky way, or your living room) you may have noticed that matter is not distributed uniformly. It comes in clumps, and each of these clumps has a gravitational field which distorts the spacetime metric, making the FRW metric no longer correct. On a lumpy spacetime, the notion of "cosmic time" is not well-defined.

Aron Wall is a physicist and a devout Christian, so he certainly doesn't have a theological ax to grind here.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Why Are So Many Scientists And Philosophers Atheists?

In the largest survey of philosophers ever done, it was revealed that 72.8% of philosophers are atheists and only 14.6% are theists. To me, the results of this survey never really felt surprising. I had known for quite a while that the vast majority of philosophers were atheists or leaned toward it. This survey just confirmed that suspicion.

As for scientists, a 2009 Pew survey showed that 41% of American scientists don't believe in god or a universal spirit, effectively making them atheists. And in the National Academy of Scientists, a survey showed that 93% are either atheists or agnostics. Contrast this to only 7.1% of the general American public identifying as atheist or agnostic according to the latest Pew survey.

So, one thing is for sure, scientists and philosophers are overwhelmingly more likely to be atheists. But why? Is it that people who enter these fields are already atheists, or is it that these fields expose people who are believers to new data and ways of thinking and they become atheists? I can't say for sure. Both are probably true to a degree. I know of at least one philosopher, Dan Finke (who blogs at Cammels with Hammers), who's told me that studying philosophy made him question his religious beliefs, which effectively made him an atheist.

From Pew's survey about scientists, one thing strikes me rather odd. When broken down by age, scientists who are between 18-34 are only 32% atheist, and those that are 65+ are 46% atheist. This means that as scientists get older, they're more likely to be atheists. This is the exact opposite of the surveys of belief among the general public, which show the younger generation is more likely than older generations to be atheist.

So, what gives? Why would the demographics of scientist on god be the exact opposite as the general public on age? Could it be that people go into the sciences as theists, and become atheists the longer they stay in the field, presumably because they're exposed to new data and ways of thinking that challenge their theistic beliefs? If that was the case it would make sense of the data. But I'm not sure. Being exposed to new data that challenges your religious views can definitely make you doubt them, and those doubts can lead to atheism, like a gateway drug.

This could be the case, but I'm only speculating here. It seems plausible to me that being in these academic fields can result in one being an atheist. But, there are theistic philosophers, albeit a small minority. So what explains them? Well, on the survey, the largest field of philosophy that has the most theists is—what else—the philosophy of religion, of which 72.3% are theists—the exact opposite of the overall survey. So are philosophers of religion going into the field as theists, or are they becoming theists by being exposed to new ways of thinking about religion and new data? I don't have any data showing the latter to be true, and it is suspected that many people who are already theists go into the philosophy of religion, like William Lane Craig, just as many people who are already Christian go into biblical studies.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Should We Mock Religion?

Religion: To mock, or not to mock? That is the question.

There is wide disagreement over whether religion should be mocked and ridiculed among atheists. On the one hand, it's argued that mocking religion demystifies it. This takes away its allure and prestige and removes it from the pedestal, which makes it easier to see religion for what it really is. And that all too often is not really all that pleasant. On the other hand, it's argued that mocking religion can make atheists seem insensitive, angry, and hostile, appear unwilling or unable to engage with religion intellectually, and it can have the unintended consequence of the backfire effect.

These are all possible outcomes of religious ridicule. That's why my view on it is that we should do both. Atheists should ridicule religion, and we should engage with it intellectually. Now, here's the thing. Some of us can do both quite well, and some of us are better at one a lot more than the other. I can generally do both fairly well. But not everyone can engage in the highly complex and esoteric subject matter that is required to have the god debate. And not everyone has the sense of humor required to satire and make fun of religion.

This week's Jesus and Mo

Humor can be used to mock religion into extinction, so I think there's value in mockery. It can make the intellectual price of religious belief so costly, and give it such a bad taste that it can discourage belief. This I think has a measurable effect. For example, today in most social circles if you come out as a creationist you'll be laughed right out of the room. I know, because I pretend to be a creationist all the time with people who don't know me just to see how they react, and often they immediately laugh at me. Then of course I tell them that I was just fucking with them.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

YouTube Atheists

I enjoy my share of YouTube atheists from time to time. They can provide a lot of entertainment and help you understand and refute the many apologetic tricks theists never cease to conjure up.

One YouTube atheist I've come to like is this guy calling himself TheMessianicManic. I like his videos because they're usually short and to the point, no more than 5 minutes or so, and he takes on many of the common arguments theists make. I also like the style of his videos. They're well edited and straightforward and not too over the top. Check him out below:

This other guy CultOfDusty is pretty well known. This particular video humiliating Ray Comfort is genius.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

What A Week

I've been out for sometime due to a medical issue that caused me to spend a few days in the hospital. Life's been pretty shitty for me the past week or so. I can tell you that if I didn't have medical insurance I'd be fucked. It's sad to think that in the richest country on earth, a person's life could be nearly ruined because of a treatable medical emergency. I have private health insurance through my job and so far it's been OK, but I wonder what Obamacare would've been like.

I have some pending posts I hope will be interesting. I will follow up on my post Does Acupuncture Work? and I will have my personal answer to whether it worked for me. Also, a Christian interlocutor of mine who I debate with regularly has offered to buy me a book he thinks makes a good argument against the New Atheists called The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism. I hope it's a good read. The reviews I've read however, are not too kind, but we shall see.

I've spent years trying to find the best arguments for god and against atheism. In the early years I've focused on a lot of Ray Comfort level idiocies but were then told by theists that I really needed to check out William Lane Craig, because unlike embarrassments like Ray Comfort et al., Craig was a "sophisticated theologian" who was able to address all the atheist's challenges for evidence. Well, after having spent years following (and critiquing) Craig's arguments, I'm not that impressed by him. In fact, although I think he's a superb debater, I think many of his arguments and views are a joke. But then I was told yet again by internet Christians that Craig is not a real sophisticated theologian, and I had to check out Alvin Plantinga, because he was a real sophisticated theologian. Then I read some of Plantinga's arguments, and although I do indeed find them sophisticated in that they're complex and very esoteric, I didn't find them compelling and found some of them also to be joke-worthy.

But yet again I'm told that the real "sophisticated theologians" are the ones behind the scenes who aren't the well known popularizers. And now I land of Edward Feser, a Catholic philosopher who I'm lead to believe is the real real sophisticated theologian. Well, I will read his book and give a chapter by chapter review on this blog. It will be a nice little winter project, as I'm generally inclined to stay home in the long cold winter months. And as an interesting note, I was told that reading Feser's book would deeply challenge my atheism. Oh really? This should be fun.

Stay tuned.

Monday, October 13, 2014

William Lane Craig On Identifying Objective Moral Values

Listen to our favorite apologist William Lane Craig in the video above explaining where he thinks we can identify the objective moral values he believes are grounded in Yahweh. He says the way you can know moral values are objective are that you can "appeal to your moral experience. Don't you think as you reflect on it, that certain things are genuinely evil, for torture a little child for fun."

But listen to this. Craig's basis for objective moral values is actually our subjective emotional responses. This is quite interesting and problematic, for at least two reasons:

First, how does Craig explain the sociopath who doesn't feel that it is evil to torture a child for fun and may even enjoy the idea? The truth of the matter is that we don't all respond emotionally to different moral situations the same way. Some of us lack the physiological ability to empathize with the suffering of others and may even enjoy the idea of torturing others. The basis for objective morals is therefore on shaky ground if it is going to be rooted in one's subjective emotional response.

Second, our emotional responses differ from culture to culture and from people to people. Take an issue like same sex marriage. There are people on both sides of the issue that are very passionate and emotional about their views. Trying to "appeal to your moral experience" will do nothing on these kinds of moral issues to establish an objective basis. Craig might think that his moral experience is somehow more objective than others, but he has no basis to make such an argument.

What Craig is actually doing is a microcosm of what all religion does on morality. What religion does is it takes the moral values that are held by that culture - what repels them, what attracts them - and codifies it into a religion and assumes that these morals are now somehow properly basic. Craig is just taking his own moral experience as a Christian American and making them "properly basic" and declaring them objective, but in reality there's no objective basis for them, it's totally subjective. That he doesn't see this is telling.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

I Met Sean Carroll Today!

I just got back from the World Science Festival in Manhattan where there was a talk about the quantum measurement problem. The quantum measurement problem is traditionally where the different interpretations of quantum mechanics come in to explain the peculiar phenomena like the results of the double slit experiment. Hosted by physicist Brian Greene, Sean Carroll was there to represent the Many World Interpretation. After the show I got to meet him in person and have my picture taken with him. He was a lot taller than I expected but other than that he was very nice and cordial. I mentioned that I was a huge fan and that I particularly enjoyed his recent debates, especially the one with William Lane Craig.

It's so great being able to have access to some of your heroes in person. I actually saw Sean walking down the street right outside my job on the way to work this morning. Good thing I was late! Tomorrow I will be seeing the program about the latest developments concerning the gravitational waves that seemed to have confirmed inflationary theory. And later this weekend there will be several interactive exhibits and programs about science throughout the city, including a stargazing exhibition. It should be fun.

Watch the program below:

Monday, March 10, 2014

The EPR Paradox and Special Relativity

I'm in the middle of taking the free course on Special Relativity over on I've already taken the simple version that doesn't include any math, and now I've just started the technical version that has all the math. It's a challenge since I haven't done complex math in years.

One of the things that I was already familiar with in relativity is how the EPR paradox kind of throws a challenge to the notion of the relativity of simultaneity. The EPR paradox is basically quantum entanglement. When two quantum particles become entangled, they can be separated at great distances and when one of the particles is measured and it becomes known that it has a certain spin, the other particle instantly becomes affected and will spin in the opposite direction. That won't become known until the other particle is measured of course, and any information about the spin of the first particle that was measured won't be able to travel faster than the speed of light. This seems to preserve Einstein's Special Relativity (SR) very well that no information can travel though space faster than light.

But this is not what bugs me. What bugs me is how if two distant particles can "instantly" affect one another, and if according to SR our reference frame that determines what is "now" depends on our velocity relative to other objects, how can the two entangled particles instantly affect one another? Suppose one of the particles was on a space ship travelling at 80% the speed of light and moving towards the other entangled particle that is a million light years away. According to SR the reference frame of the particle on the ship would require that its "now" slice contain the future events of the other distant particle. So if the particle on the moving ship is measured, does the other distant particle's spin change "instantly" or does it change in the far future, according to the measured particle's reference frame on the moving ship?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

William Lane Craig Argues For Same Sex Marriage (Sort Of)

On a Q & A a while back I think William Lane Craig inadvertently made the case for legalized same sex marriage! It happened on a question regarding, "Could God's Moral Commands Be Improved?" The questioner asks whether the commands god gave the Israelites could be improved upon. And Craig responds that, "God’s commands can be contingent upon the realities of the human condition relative to the times and places of the recipients of those commands," and that there is "a distinction between moral law and civil law." Craig continues, "Ancient Israel under Moses was a theocracy: God was the head of the government. We don’t live in a theocracy, so many acts which are deeply immoral (like adultery) are not illegal."

So here Craig seems to draw a distinction that what may be wrong in the eyes of god should not always be illegal. He seems to agree, writing:

Even though adultery is not illegal in a non-theocratic society, it remains a sin that that is deeply immoral in God’s sight. Since we live in a non-theocratic society, we should not try to make everything that is immoral also illegal.

But now the obvious question arises. If adultery is a sin in the eyes of the Christian god, but should not be illegal, then what argument does the Christian have against same sex marriage being legal? If a Christian like Craig can excuse adultery, which seems to cause far more damage to society than SSM, then he should also support the legalization of SSM since after all, we like in a non-theocratic society.

Now I know Craig is against SSM, but what defense does he have that allows legalized adultery, but not SSM? Is it because our society is "sexually promiscuous" as he says in the Q & A? Well homosexuality is promiscuous too. Does SSM cause more harm? Arguably adultery causes more harm because one is being deceived and it ruins marriages and families. Does it violate nature somehow? Craig has even acknowledged that homosexuals do not choose their sexual orientation, so homosexuality should be in god's plan, for some reason. Craig's arguments against SSM are laughable and pathetic, and deeply embarrassing for a man so well educated in philosophy. His attacks on SSM are the result of his absurd Christian worldview, which is why I could never accept it as the truth. Given Craig's apparent acceptance that secularism is a good thing that we "should" have, to me, it means that theists should be fine with SSM becoming legal since they hypocritically already support lots of other "sins" of lesser consequence being legally permitted.

Does God Permit Natural Evils?

If I had the time or the will power, I'd refute every one of W.L. Craig's Question and Answer segments. A few weeks ago a theistic writer wrote in asking Dr. Craig whether god causes or permits natural evil. Craig's answer was that god permits natural evil, but "that God is not the sole cause of natural evil."

I beg to differ.

I came across this wonderful argument a while back that argues pretty decisively that if god existed, then he would indeed be the sole cause of natural disasters. The argument goes like this:

(1) God (an omnipotent, omniscience, omni-benevolent being) exists.
(2) Natural evil exists.
(3) God is the creator and designer of the physical universe, including the laws that govern it.
(4) Natural disasters, and the evil they cause, are a direct byproduct of the laws that govern our universe.

I don't think Craig would deny premises 1-3, although he might challenge premise 2. In the Q&A he wrote:

For what is bad about natural evils is not simply the occurrence of certain natural events themselves. There is nothing evil, for example, about one continental plate’s slipping under another, nor about the earth’s trembling as a result. Such natural events are themselves ethically neutral; morality doesn’t apply to rocks and rain and wind. Rather if there is something bad about such events, it’s that human beings get caught in them.

I would agree but go a step further that it is not just people getting caught up in natural disasters that make them evil under theism, but any conscious animal that can suffer as well. That would mean that the millions of years of non-human suffering as the result of natural disasters would be evil under a theistic worldview. So given Craig's response above, I don't think he would object to premise 2.

Premise 4 is actually what Craig would seem to object to, and his first option out of god being responsible for natural evil is an appeal to quantum indeterminacy. He writes:

...if quantum indeterminacy is ontic, God could not cause an earthquake to occur at a specific time and place just by setting up the natural laws and initial conditions of the universe. If an earthquake does occur, it is only because God did not intervene to stop it. That is to say, He permitted it. Problem solved.

But god would have designed the physical universe, including the laws that govern it and would have chosen to make the universe inherently random at a fundamental level. Furthermore, god's foreknowledge would allow him to know exactly when every natural disaster would occur, even with quantum indeterminacy. I'm simply not buying the case that god creates a universe and then is shocked at how much natural suffering it causes. And Craig doesn't seem to be making that case either. He seems to be trying to argue that if quantum indeterminacy is real, then god does not directly cause every natural disaster. The beauty of the above argument I'm defending is that is god would still ultimately be responsible for natural disasters, at least indirectly, because he is still the one calling the shots on how the universe will operate and he has foreknowledge. So the problem is not solved.


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