Sunday, January 10, 2021

Why The Kalam Cosmological Argument Is Incompatible With Libertarian Free Will (Meme Edition)

I've argued before that the Kalam Cosmological Argument is incompatible with libertarian free will, but it requires a few assumptions. First it must be the case that thoughts are not merely events but are things that pop into existence. Second, to say the "agent" is the cause of its thought requires an agent to somehow be distinct from its consciousness, such that it can make decisions prior to consciousness. For example, if an agent causes its thoughts it can't do so consciously, because the cause would be prior to the thought, which is the consciousness. I fail to see how an agent can have any control over such an unconscious experience. I created this meme to illustrate the problem.

Feel free to download and share on your social media.

The Principle Of Sufficient Reason: Why Even God Cannot Satisfy Its Requirements (Meme Edition)

Appealing to the principle of sufficient reason is something almost all theists do. I created a meme years ago on why Munchhausen's Trilemma makes the PSR impossible to adhere to. Realizing that version was too big, I've now created a more social media friendly version. Feel free to download this and upload to your social media.

Something From Nothing: Why Almost Everyone Gets The Big Bang Wrong (Including Atheists) Meme Edition!

I created an infograph years ago on why almost everyone gets the big bang wrong but realized it was too big for social media, and so I created a more meme friendly version. This topic is one of my biggest pet peeves because it allows the theist to make claims that just aren't true, especially regarding cosmological arguments. Feel free to download this and upload to your social media. Spread the word!

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

It's Been A While...

I haven't blogged in months and it's mainly because I've gotten tired of refuting theism and religion. I just don't have the time and interest for long-form blogging anymore, so I'm taking an extended break. I might occasionally post an argument I think of, but I don't know how often I will do that. If you want to follow me in any capacity, you can follow me on Twitter, because that's the only place I'm still active. Just click on the Twitter link over to the right.

I recently made a simple argument there:

What this argument demonstrates is that the Christian god's intrinsically trinitarian nature is not logically necessary, and therefore the Christian god's existence is not logically necessary. Since it is logically possible a different (non-trinitarian) god could exist, such a god is not necessary. This is the same logic theists use when they claim the universe could have been different, and therefore is not necessary. What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander!

One could claim god is not logically necessary but is metaphysically necessary, instead. But I could make the same argument about the universe. (And I have.) Once you acknowledge god is not logically necessary, you can't argue its metaphysically necessary without allowing the atheist to make the same argument about the universe. I really hope most atheists and theists come to understand this, since most currently don't.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Quote Of The Day: A Neural Network Framework For Cognitive Bias

A particular question comes up for me when debating god's existence about why we homo sapiens would have so many cognitive biases built into our thinking if it is the case that god created us for the purposes of knowing god's existence and the truth (as many theists claim): Why would god design us with so many flaws hindering our ability to know the truth if our very purpose was to know the truth?

For example, why would god give us a confirmation bias that makes it difficult for us to notice contrary evidence? Can this all be swept under the rug with the ol' "God has morally sufficient reasons for this" explainer? If that sours the theist, one attempt to deny all this is by saying our cognitive biases are not hardwired. But, here's a paper demonstrating A Neural Network Framework for Cognitive Bias.

I leave you a select quote from it (emphasis mine).

The brain (like all neural networks) functions in a highly associative way. Correlation and coincidence detection are the basic operations of neural functioning, as manifested in, e.g., Hebb’s rule (Hebb, 1949; Shatz, 1992), the ‘Law of Effect’ (Thorndike, 1927, 1933), Pavlovian conditioning (Pavlov, 2010), or autocorrelation (Reichardt, 1961). As a result, the brain automatically and subconsciously ‘searches’ for correlation, coherence, and (causal) connections: it is highly sensitive to consistent and invariant patterns..........Examples of heuristics and bias resulting from associative information processing are the control illusion (people tend to overestimate the degree to which they are in control (Langer, 1975; Matute et al., 2015), superstition (Skinner, 1948; Risen, 2015), spurious causality (seeing causality in unconnected correlations), the conjunction fallacy (Tversky and Kahneman, 1983), the representativeness heuristic (Tversky and Kahneman, 1981a), and the previously mentioned story bias......In line with the Hebb doctrine (Hebb, 1949), the neural network framework contributes to an explanation of these phenomena by the way (the weight of) connections between neurons are affected by covarying inputs. Synaptic strengths are typically altered by either the temporal firing pattern of the presynaptic neuron or by modulatory neurons (Marder and Thirumalai, 2002). Neurons that repeatedly or persistently fire together, change each other’s excitability and synaptic connectivity (Destexhe and Marder, 2004). This basic principle, i.e., “cells that fire together, wire together” (Shatz, 1992), enables the continuous adaptation and construction of neural connections and associations based on simultaneous and covarying activations.

I'm not sure one can fully deny that cognitive bias has any neuro-biological basis at all.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Quote Of The Day: "Nones" Are Growing And They're Not Civically Engaged

Ryan Burge, an associate professor of political science at Eastern Illinois University and opinion writer for the Religion News Service is fearful for the future of civic engagement in the US because the rising "nones" (those with no religious preference), are the least likely to volunteer.

In his recent OP-ED, he created the following treemap of the religious composition in the US as of 2018 taken from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study:

Protestants, once a dominant majority, now are only 39% of the US population, followed by the "nothing in particular" nones at 20%. Further down the list, atheists and agnostics make up a combined 12%. So the percentage of atheists, agnostics, and nones according to this study would be 32%, a third of the US.

This worries Burge, as those with nothing in particular are less likely to volunteer or engage politically, he writes:

No matter how one feels about religion, it’s undeniable that religious traditions have spent decades building networks that operate behind the scenes to support those who are most vulnerable in our society. As the number of socially detached people grows, the ability of faith groups to fill in the gaps will be diminished, and once these ministries disappear, it seems highly unlikely that they can be quickly or easily replaced.

Finding ways to get these individuals to reintegrate into their communities might lead to benefits not only for these individuals but also for towns and cities in their fight to re-create social capital.

Should those who promote secularism be worried if this is true? Unintended consequences have a nasty tendency of rearing their ugly heads in unexpected places. It seems to me that those who are "nothing in particular" are nothing in particular because they are less likely to be socially and civically engaged. Religion is just one more thing they are disengaged from. If that's the case, it may be impossible (or at least very hard) to get them to participate in the areas traditionally done and cultivated by religious communities and institutions. And while secular organizations have made some inroads in promoting volunteerism in recent decades, the bulk of the future civic engagement might indeed by at the hands of a shrinking population.

Interestingly, Burge separates the nones from atheists and agnostics in his piece and argues that educational level is the main factor of decreased civic engagement. The nones have the lowest levels of educational achievement while atheists have some of the highest. So while all this news looks bad on the nones, it doesn't necessarily look bad on atheists.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Religions And Birth Rates: Not What You Think? | Hans Rosling

It seems that I discovered Swedish born statistician Hans Rosling a little too late. He died February 7th, 2017 of cancer, just before I stumbled upon his many inspiring talks on the changing facts of world data.

A point Rosling made over and over again is that many of us are operating with 20 or 30 year old statistics in our heads in terms of how we think the world is. We tend to think, for example, that many third world countries today are statistically where they were in the 1980s and 90s in terms of birth rates and poverty rates. This makes us mistakenly think that in countries like India and Bangladesh, women are still on average having 6 or 7 kids. In the last 30 years, birth rates have dropped in almost the entire world, and it is always directly correlated with reductions of poverty and rising standards of living.

This brings me to the topic of religion and birth rates. It is commonly believed that religions like Islam encourage high birth rates and that this will ensure that the population of Muslims around the world will outpace and outnumber all other religions and those without religion. While it is true that Muslim majority countries have on average more children per woman than non-Muslim countries, when the standard of living is raised, the birth rate drops, just as it does in the rest of the Western world.

In India in 2018 the birth rate is 2.2 per woman, in Bangladesh it is 2.0, Indonesia, 2.3, Iran, 1.6, Bahrain, 1.9, Qatar, 1.8, Turkey, 2.0, and Saudi Arabia, 2.4. These countries have dramatically increased their standard of living since the 1980s, when they had birth rates 2 or 3 times higher. To put this in perspective, the US birth rate in 2018 was 1.9, roughly on par with many of these countries.

Muslim majority countries that haven't increased their standard of living, like Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and Mauritania, still have high birth rates of 4.3, 4.2, 6.0, and 4.5 respectively.

What this all means is 2 things: (1) the Islamic world is not immune to lower, Western-level birth rates. That is to say, there is nothing necessarily intrinsic about Islam that prevents countries from lowering their birth rate as they economically advance, and (2) to lower birth rates one must tackle poverty. This means it is not necessarily the case that Islam will come to dominate the future population with its higher birth rates as organizations like PEW have predicted (to which I think they made several mistakes).

Watch Rosling explain in his eccentric way in more detail in his 2012 Ted talk. (Also check out his site to see the data for yourself).


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