Saturday, June 16, 2012
The Doubtcasters attempt to level a contradiction between Titus 1:2 and other passages.
Titus 1:1Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, 2in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago...
The DCers believe they are showing that God is guilty of deception.
Perhaps my favorite comment of the entire episode is when Justin Schieber says that there's a rather large discussion of the deception of God at the urbanphilosophy site, and that unfortunately the biblical arguments were never brought up. What a laughable surprise - that the discussion there would avoid the Bible. How about that?
The first pericope I would like to deal with is the account of King Ahab, his court "prophets", and the true prophet of Yahweh named Micaiah in 2 Chronicles 18:12-28 and 1 Kings 22.
The Doubtcasters charge God with stepping in to make other prophets of the king lie about the upcoming battle, and assert that it's clear that God is not just letting Ahab believe what he already wants to believe, but rather God is actively engaged in the deception. A demonic agent who is going to go spread lies is volunteering for a job that God initiates.
In response, let us note the relevant things from the text:
-Obviously it's known that Micaiah is a real prophet of Yahweh and not of the false gods whose worship Ahab and his queen Jezebel had invested decades in instituting in Israel. Jehoshaphat recognises this fact when he asks for Micaiah rather than the sycophants in Ahab's court.
-Even the messenger knew that Micaiah was something of a misfit.
-Even Ahab knew it. It would appear that Micaiah's original line was delivered with some amount of sarcasm, for Ahab adjures him to tell him exactly what he saw.
-The true prophet of God Micaiah tells Ahab exactly what he saw.
-Ahab acknowledges that the prophecy communicated to him from Yahweh was not good: “Did I not tell you that he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?”
-So, to review: Micaiah does tell Ahab exactly what he saw.
God told Ahab the honest truth.
So, right on the face of it, while the Doubtcasters want us to think that God lied to Ahab, here is the exact opposite information.
WASHINGTON—The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops welcomed the action of President Barack Obama today to defer action to all young people eligible under the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, saying that it would permit young people who were brought into the United States undocumented to come out of the shadows and more fully participate in society.
“This important action will provide legal protection, and work authorization, to a vulnerable group of immigrants who are deserving of remaining in our country and contributing their talents to our communities,” said Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration.” These youth are bright, energetic, and eager to pursue their education and reach their full potential.”
Unfortunately, the success rate drops to 50/50 when applied to single male Lutherans, Arminians, and papists.
Have you looked into Christian Physicalism? I noticed that the ARP is going to be ruling on whether or not it is legitimate to hold the position in their denomination. I've been listening to some stuff by Glenn Peoples and - surprisingly - I find it at least as plausible as Cartesian dualism.
Allow me to give a few quick readings of these texts that might check out:
Luke 23:43 and Phil 1:23 could be dealt with by an argument based on the experience. Although it could actually be millions of years before Christ returns in the experience of the believers all they will be conscious of is something like falling asleep followed by waking up – they were unconscious during the interim.
There’s also a grammatical argument for Luke 23:43 where the comma would be placed after ‘today’ rather than before so that the verses would read ‘Truly I tell you today, you will be with me in paradise’. But I couldn’t argue the point because I don’t know Greek. I’m just saying this explanation has been offered. That said, if the grammatical argument doesn’t go through then the other explanation could work.
2 Cor 5:8 comes in a section which is clearly referring to the resurrection (being ‘further clothed’). The ‘body’ that he would like to be absent from refers to bodies that are perishable and part of this current evil age. He longs for a time when he will be away from it and be ‘present with the Lord’ in a new glorified bodily on a glorified earth.
The parallels with 1 Cor 15 strengthen the appeal of this interpretation.
1 Thess 5:10 only works as a proof text for dualism if the physicalist position necessitates the non-existence of the person at death but this isn’t obvious. The metaphor of ‘sleep’ could apply to a corpse as well couldn’t it? Wouldn’t it primarily be referring to the appearance of a dead body?
Rev 14:13, as you know, is a highly symbolic book so we should be careful not to assume that the souls of the martyrs refer to actual disembodied souls. They certainly mean disembodied souls at the symbolic level but it’s not necessarily the case that they are disembodied souls in reality.
The idea of the souls of the martyrs might act as a poetic device to ensure John’s first century readers, who were undergoing persecution and had lost loved ones in the tribulation, of the justice of God. By using this imagery he would be reminding them that God will punish those who killed their loved ones and who continue to oppress them as living believers.
“If, however, they pass out of existence the moment they die, then that's not very encouraging–even if they will be resurrected at a later date. Temporary nonexistence cuts against the grain of certain Biblical promises.“
Again, I think the argument from experience can handle this.
“And apart from specific prooftexts, there is just the gap between when we die and the resurrection of the just. Christians die at different times. If the resurrection of the just lies at the end of the church age, what happens to us during the interim?”
This could be the hardest part for the physicalist to answer. They would have to say that we are simply dead corpses. But then they have to face problems like the ‘Christian cannibal’ and the like which are designed to bring the possibility of resurrection under scrutiny. But remember, this is a philosophical argument whereas the Christian physicalists I know are making an exegetical case. They could still be warranted in believing physicalism even if they don’t have a philosophical answer to these problems in the same way that a Calvinist who doesn’t know how God can hold people that have been determined to sin accountable is still warranted in his Calvinism so long as he can make his case exegetically.
“The Bible also teaches the existence of discarnate minds. Angels are a case in point.”
I’ve been thinking through this one for a while and I’m not sure if the Bible does teach that Angels are discarnate minds. No Cartesian would be willing to say that an immaterial mind could appear sensibly to people…
…and yet the Bible speaks of angels as if they had bodies. Perhaps their bodies are somewhat ‘wispier’ than ours but they still seem to be empirically detected, can move around in space, etc. The only clear case of a discarnate mind in Scripture seems to be God.
Losing My Religion (At Least That’s the Plan)June 11, 2012 By peteenns
I have made some hard decision[s] in my life–professionally and ecclesiastically–by asking myself these sorts of questions. I do not want to be around religion. I want to lose my religion.
How does he propose to get there? What does he suppose (imagine, etc.) he would find, regarding the church's leadership, authority structure, etc. Does he want to argue that what he would find back there in any way resembled a gub'ment structure he'd find in a church today?
Audience Poll: What Questions Would You Like to See Addressed on the Secular Outpost?Posted by Jeffery Jay Lowder . . at 6/15/2012 09:54:00 AM
If there is a topic you'd like to see authors of The Secular Outpost address, please post a comment below and suggest it.
I would very much like to see addressed the return of IIDB.
With the death of the Richard Dawkins forums and the sad, fragmented degeneracy of the successor communities like FRDB and TalkRational into platforms for a dwindling handful of knowledgable posters vs. an only slightly less small handful of kooks and quacks, there just isn't anywhere to go, and that's a shame.
For what it's worth, if anything, here are my notes on Peter J. Williams' lecture on the resurrection (which Evan helpfully pointed out in an earlier post).
Since I don't have a lot of time these days, however, I played much of the lecture at a faster than normal rate. So my notes might not be as accurate or as well organized as they should be. Still I hope they're at least helpful in some way.
Obviously people should listen or watch Williams' excellent lecture for themselves. (Although I found his third part weak.)
Friday, June 15, 2012
Most people think of atheism as one big negative. But there is much more to atheism than knockdown arguments that there is no God.There is the whole rest of the worldview that comes along with atheism.
So why aren’t scientists more up-front about these answers that we can read right off of science? Mainly because the answers are bad PR for science in a nation of churchgoers.
Here is a list of most of these questions and their short answers. Given what we know, they are all pretty obvious. The interesting thing is to recognize how totally unavoidable these answers really are. The book explains them in more detail.
Is there a God?
What is the nature of reality?
What physics says it is.
What is the purpose of the universe?
There is none.
What is the meaning of life?
Why am I here?
Just dumb luck.
Does prayer work?
Of course not.
Is there a soul? Is it immortal?
Are you kidding?
Is there free will?
Not a chance!
What happens when we die?
Everything pretty much goes on as before, except us.
What is the difference between right and wrong, good and bad?
There is no moral difference between them.
Why should I be moral?
Because it makes you feel better than being immoral.
Is abortion, euthanasia, suicide, paying taxes, foreign aid, or anything else you don’t like forbidden, permissible, or sometimes obligatory?
What is love, and how can I find it?
Love is the solution to a strategic interaction problem. Don’t look for it; it will find you when you need it.
Does history have any meaning or purpose?
It’s full of sound and fury, but signifies nothing.
Does the human past have any lessons for our future?
Fewer and fewer, if it ever had any to begin with.
After all, the trouble most people have with atheism is that if they really thought there were no God, human life would lose its value. They wouldn’t have much reason to go on living, and even less reason to be decent people. The questions theists always ask atheists are these two: In a world you think is devoid of purpose, why do you bother getting up in the morning? And in such a world, what stops you from cutting all the moral corners you can?
Religious people especially argue that atheists cannot really have any values—things we stand up for just because they are right—and that we are not to be trusted to be good when we can get away with something. They complain that our worldview has no moral compass. These charges get redoubled once theists see how big a role Darwinian natural selection plays in science’s view of reality. Many of the most vocal people who have taken sides against this scientific theory have frankly done so because they think it’s morally dangerous, not because it lacks evidence. If Darwinism is true, then anything goes! “Anything goes” is nihilism, and nihilism has a bad name.
As the chapters about ethics suggest, there is good news and bad news. The bad news first: We need to face the fact that nihilism is true: science can’t justify the core morality that almost all of us accept. And any other supposed justification would conflict with science. So, if we are going to be really consistent, nihilism is the only option.
I hope and I also believe that nice nihilism is enough to forestall atheists’ worries. Because when it comes to morality, it’s all we’ve got.
The most important thing to know about reality is that science understands it well enough to rule out god, and almost everything else that provides wiggle room for theism and mystery mongering. That includes all kinds of purposes, including even ones that conscious introspection suggests we ourselves have. Conscious introspection was shaped by natural selection into tricking us about the nature of reality.
For reasons just mentioned, we were shaped to be suckers for a good story, a narrative with a plot driven by motives—peoples’, god’s, nature’s. By making us think that our own behaviour is directly understandable to us as the product of our (usually conscious) will, introspection effectively prevents us from discovering its true sources in non-conscious brain processes.
To use some philosophical jargon, I am an eliminativist about the propositional attitudes. That is, I believe that the brain acquires, stores, and uses information, but that it does not do so in the form of sentences, statements or propositions. The illusion that it does so is another one of those mistakes foisted on us by conscious awareness.
Nihilism—even my “nice nihilism” is a public relations nightmare. Most of my fellow travellers think that if the scientific worldview saps morality of its truth, correctness, justification, then there is no chance it will be widely adopted and every chance the scientific worldview will be marginalized, to the obvious detriment of human welfare. They might be right. It’s an empirical matter.
The four most difficult chapters of The Atheist’s Guide are devoted to this task, and most reviewers have avoided even discussing them. They are too hard for people who have never heard of the problem of intentionality or content or ‘aboutness.’ Once we take on board eliminativism about content, and Darwinism about every other instance of apparent purposiveness in the universe and in our brains, it’s easy to see that what consciousness tells us about ourselves, our motives, our plans, our purposes, is a tissue of illusions. This, not morality, is the part of our understanding of ourselves that requires radical reconstruction, at least for scientific purposes, if not for everyday life.
1. General Problems with the Gospels – including the Fourth Gospela. It was written by a Christian believer with the purpose of promoting Christian beliefs.b. It was probably not written by an eyewitness.c. It was composed decades after the crucifixion of Jesus.d. It provides no attribution of specific stories or details to named and known eyewitnesses or sources.e. It was written in Greek rather than Aramaic (the language Jesus and his disciples used).f. It appears that the words and sayings of Jesus were preserved in oral traditions that failed to reliably preserve the original situations or contexts of those words and sayings, thus opening the door to misunderstanding, distortion, and corruption of the original meaning of Jesus’ words and teachings.
If a primary purpose of an author of an account of the life of Jesus is to promote Christian beliefs, such as the belief that Jesus was the divine Son of God, and the Savior of humankind, then that purpose introduces certain biases into the account. Such an account will tend to select events that support this point of view and tend to exclude or downplay events that undermine or dis-confirm that point of view. An author with such biases will tend to accept without question stories and details that support these beliefs, while tending to reject without good reason other stories and details that dis-confirm or cast doubt on those beliefs.
Thursday, June 14, 2012
Hayes [sic] was right to focus on E1.4 because the terms aren't very well defined, so it is weak.
[Quoting Lowder] I am not a biologist, but I doubt that any biologist thinks that the intelligence of social insects is even in the same league as that of chimpanzees.
Most of us would avoid answering a question like that before the terms were nailed down very precisely. Many would say, 'Intelligent in what way?' And if you said 'Ability to build hives' we would have to say that the bee was more intelligent.
Regardless of these ultimately moot questions like whether bee hive shows more intelligence than a bonobo masturbating, we should note that all the behaviors of the bee depend on the nervous system of the bee. Nobody in the conversation is a substance dualist about the bee dance.
Hayes [sic] has pointed out a case of a simple cognitive life, with memory and a communication system, in a patently naturalistic system, and we should thank him for pointing out this nice example that, while casting doubt on one of your pieces of evidence, ultimately is very helpful for the naturalist. Indeed, bees are now one of my favorite examples for the study of intelligent biorepresentational systems (it used to be birdsong learning, until I posted this).
Back to your argument: in general, inferences from neural complexity to "mental complexity" (and vice-versa) are tough.
I would just say that the neural activity we observe is what we would expect if brains were solely responsible for the mental capacities of animals, and that given everything we know about brains, it isn't clear what is left for these nonphysical substances to do. That's why most of the antinaturalists about consciousness are merely property dualists for whom experiences literally do nothing but dangle there attached to the meat doing the real work, dangling there "feeling" or "experiencing" or whatever, doing nothing.
There is no magic synapse that has to take in inputs from some additional ingredient (psychons (Eccles)). Rather, everywhere we look, we find neurotransmitters and voltage fields pushing around other neurons (and ultimately muscles) all the way through, without any metaphysical gaps. Given that, and the other evidence you pointed out, and the lack of any plausible dualistic theory that has ever offered any help to any neuroscientist ever, substance dualism is dead except to the religiously biased (and perhaps new-age credulous saps). So we end up with property dualists that serve as the end-point epiphenomenalist reductio of the dualist enterprise.
A good Southern lady, the grandmother would never dream of taking the Lord’s name in vain. But, as it turns out, she has been taking the Lord’s name in vain all her life. Her telling the Misfit to pray, that Jesus would help him, was simply another way of manipulating to get her way. Here at this moment of extremity, she is about to come to terms with the ultimate truths that she has been mouthing about. “Jesus, Jesus,” she says, in what might as well be a kind of profanity. And yet Jesus intervenes anyway. By invoking the name of Jesus, the grandmother elicits a speech from the Misfit in which, ironically, he tells the truth about Jesus: “He thrown everything off balance. If He did what He said, then it’s nothing for you to do but throw everything away and follow Him, and if He didn’t, then it’s nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can.”
And now, finally, the grandmother says the first honest thing she has said the whole story. She expresses an honest doubt:
"'Maybe He didn’t raise the dead,' the old lady mumbled, not knowing what she was saying and feeling so dizzy that she sank down in the ditch with her legs twisted under her."
That honest doubt cracks open the door for an honest acceptance of truths to which the grandmother had only given lip-service before. Just before her death, she finally realizes that she is a sinner herself, more kin to the Misfit than she would have ever been able to acknowledge. In an instant of clear-headedness she tells the Misfit, “Why you’re one of my babies. You’re one of my own children!” She has finally pushed through the cliches that have preserved her self-righteousness and is ready to meet her Maker–and not a second too soon.
Reply: Like the previous objection, this objection is not of obvious relevance to APM and for the same reason. The existence of mental states is included within the background information for APM.
Reply: If human minds were independent of the physical brain, then brain injuries should not have much, if any, impact on mental activity since, ex hypothesi, mental activity does not occur in the brain to begin with. Thus, E1.2 is antecedently much more probable on the assumption that E is true than on the assumption that E is false, i.e., Pr(E1.2 | E) >! Pr(E1.2 | ~E).
The objector’s computer analogy does not explain E1.2. If my computer were stolen, no amount of fiddling with it would enable the burglar to affect my ability to speak, recognize faces, feel pain. In contrast, brain injuries can produce exactly these kinds of results.
Reply: Regarding E1.4, when we compare different classes within the animal kingdom (e.g., fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals), we find that more intelligent classes always have more complex brains.
I am not a neuroscientist or biologist, but I suspect that there is some margin of error with the correlation between brain size and mental capacities, e.g., an animal with a 500cc brain is always going to be more intelligent than an animal with a 5cc brain, but there may be instances within the same species of an animal with a 450cc brain that is more intelligent than an animal with a 500cc brain.
Reply: Again, I am not a biologist, but I doubt that any biologist thinks that the intelligence of social insects is even in the same league as that of chimpanzees.
Honeybees build nests with hexagonal combs for brood raising and food storage. All of them use dance language as their primary means of recruiting nest mates to valuable resources.
Apis floreata and A. adreniformis the smallest species build small cones hanging from tree branches, because the support for the comb supplies a flat surface on the top of the branch they can indicate direction directly by doing their dance on this part of the comb. The other species all do their dance on the vertical plane of the comb and thus indicate direction by transposing the direction of the sun to the direction relevant to gravity using a straight upwards direction to be equivalent to flying towards the sun. In all species the vigor with which the bee dances is directly correlated with the richness of the resource indicated, while the length of the straight run, or its omission are indications of the distance to be traveled to the resource, this need not be a straight line but may involve flying around some natural obstacle such as a small mountain.
The Honey Bee dance comes in three forms; A) the reversing circle or round dance used to indicate a resource close to the hive, B) the sickle dance, only used by the Italian race of Apis mellifera to indicate a slightly more distant resource, and C) the waggle dance, which is basically the circle dance with the addition of bisecting line down the middle during which the bee waggles her abdomen. The more intense the waggling the closer the food source. Different species and races use the round dance to indicate resources at different distances, thus A. floreata, A. dorsata and A. cerana only use the round dance for distances less than 50 meters while Apis mellifera (race) ligustica uses it for distances up to 200 meters and A. mellifera cornica for resources up to 1000 meters distant.
The young slavemaking queen will wait outside of the colony she is leaving and follow a group of raiding slave makers into her new colony. As the worker slavemakers raid this colony for eggs, the queen takes advantage of the battle by using it to sneak into the colony. Once it finds the queen, it kills her and takes her place. The new queen mimics the old queen by consuming pheromones from her body and releasing them to the attending ants. This new queen having mated with a slavemaking male earlier begins to produce new slave makers. Other variations on these hostile takeovers include one South American species whose workers secrete a chemical on a host colony that causes the ants of the host colony to evacuate the nest. In their haste to leave, pupae will be left behind. These developing ants are then taken back to the slave maker nest. Another variation is in a European species that attacks ants that are significantly larger in size. The queen invades a nest by clinging on the rightful queen and slowly chokes her to death.
Reply: Yes, but (I'm told) predatory insects are much more limited in their behavioral responses than social mammals like wolves, lions, leopards, and dogs. The latter are much more versatile in their behavioral responses because of their greater complexity. I could be wrong, but I believe this point is uncontroversial among entomologists and ethologists.
Reply: Given that my argument is an evidential argument, this is false. Here considerations like the explanatory virtues come into play. What is the most parsimonious, scientifically conservative, successfully predictive explanation that accounts for the widest range of facts? Judged like any other empirical hypothesis, E is the best explanation, hands down.
Most philosophers believe that, other things being equal, simpler theories are better. But what exactly does theoretical simplicity amount to? Syntactic simplicity, or elegance, measures the number and conciseness of the theory's basic principles. Ontological simplicity, or parsimony, measures the number of kinds of entities postulated by the theory. One issue concerns how these two forms of simplicity relate to one another.
A distinction is often made between two fundamentally distinct senses of simplicity: syntactic simplicity (roughly, the number and complexity of hypotheses), and ontological simplicity (roughly, the number and complexity of things postulated). These two facets of simplicity are often referred to as elegance and parsimony respectively.