Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Can testimony be the basis for a ‘properly basic belief?’

Christian apologist and theologian Randal Rauser has an idea regarding warranted Christian belief that I find particularly interesting, but ultimately wrong.  Randal’s idea is to take the Reformed Epistemology of Alvin Plantinga a little bit further, he wants to use testimony as a foundation for a properly basic belief in something like Christian theism.
This is something he has written on in his book with Justin Schieber “An Atheist and a Christian Walk into a Bar and a bit about on his blog. 
I should point out that Randal prefers using testimony as a basis for properly basic belief in Christianity compared to the traditional appeals to a Sensus Divinitatus, because he considers appealing to a SD to place the theist at a rhetorical disadvantage.
I think Randal’s intuition about being at a rhetorical disadvantage with the Sensus Divinitatus is correct. A mysterious Sensus Divinitatus providing justification for Christian belief in a pre-evidential way is going to sound outlandish to non-believers, and likely would come as a shock to many lay believers in the pews. It’s akin to saying that one’s “Jesus senses are tingling”



In short, I don’t think that this kind of appeal to testimony as a foundation for a properly basic belief in god is going to work.  I think if he is going to go this kind of Reformed Epistemology route, he’s going to have to appeal to a Sensus Divinitatus, ala Alvin Plantinga.



Friday, November 3, 2017

Necessary vs. Brute Facts in Cosmological Arguments


So I’m a bit late to the party, but I was recently able to listen to the debate between Sean Carroll and Luke Barnes on the Unbelievable podcast.  There’s been some hubbub on Randal’s blog about the rather fantastic episode, and I’d like to make a few points now that I’ve heard it myself.

A lot of the debate was on the ground regarding a naturalist explanation of the universe, assuming the universe (defined as the entirety of physical reality) has a beginning.  The two of them didn’t debate any merits of naturalistic explanations of an eternal universe.

The first bit of hubbub I’m referring to is when Randal accuses Sean of redefining god to not be necessary and to argue against his own definition of god as a non-necessary being.

I think part of this stems from confusion on Randal’s part of what Sean was saying. In his book, Sean argues that there are no necessarily existing beings, so this isn't an imposition of a new definition it's an argued conclusion.  Further, in the debate with Luke, Sean’s main point is that even on theism one has to accept brute facts.   It's this second point of contention that I really want to focus on here.


Sunday, October 29, 2017

Problems Debating Catholic Arguments

In my Facebook feed I saw a suggested post about an upcoming Unbelievable podcast hosted by Justin Brierly that brought up a concern:





So the next episode will have Ed Feser and Arif Ahmed debating moderated by Justin Brierly - what is there to be concerned about? After all I think Justin is a fair host of a good show, I've got a high opinion of Arif, and I think Ed is one of the best defenders of Thomistic arguments for belief in a god.


Well the main problem is that debating the kinds of arguments Ed Feser has in his new book isn't really about debating the arguments themselves at all.  Much like Aquinas's famous "Five Ways" arguments, it's more about whether or not you accept the Thomistic/Neo-Aristotelian metaphysics that is assumed by the arguments - not the actual form of the arguments themselves.


So debating "two arguments" of the kind Feser espouses is kind of silly, the debate should be focused on his underlying metaphysic.  Far too often in debates with Thomists atheists go at the arguments without really focusing on the underlying metaphysic and so miss the mark. This lets Thomist defenders rightly point out how the atheists have got things all wrong.


Arif is a Cambridge philosopher and from what I've seen of his debates before, he a good one at that. My concern is whether or not the debate format itself will constrain him into a way that makes it hard to attack the core of what is wrong with the kind of arguments Ed is offering.

Monday, October 23, 2017

The Insidious Indoctrination in our Pledge of Allegence



When it comes to “movement atheism” there are a few things that I regarded as pet issues that the movement would collectively try to take some action on that I considered superficial or silly.

One of those things is the inclusion of “under god” in the pledge of allegiance here in the US.

Our original pledge went: 

"I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
It was amended in 1954 to interject some religion into it because of the Red Scare of godless communism:
"I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
Of course they also changed our national motto from “E pluribus unum” (Latin for out of many, one) to “In God We Trust”, which is now printed on our currency.

When movements to remove reference to the imaginary deity from our supposedly secular government pledge or currency failed, I didn’t consider it to be that big a deal. I mean, who really cared, there are bigger fish to fry.



Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Conservative Chrsitian Lies About Consent Based Sexual Ethics



Sometimes it’s staggering to me to see how misrepresented non-Christian moral codes are in Christian and rightwing media outlets.  

The latest example is by David French in the National Review in what’s now a right-wing trope that tries to use the Harvey Weinstein scandal to repudiate non-Christian moral codes when it comes to sexual behavior.

What’s worse is that French’s central premise is based entirely on his misrepresentation of consent based sexual ethics.  

Friday, September 15, 2017

Request for Info on Pro-Choice Arguments

I wanted to ask my readership for some help on arguments related to abortion rights. I am pro-choice, but I haven't delved particularly deeply into the nuances of the arguments for/against abortion and I was wondering how one would respond to the kinds of arguments used by Ben Shapiro, detailed here.

The short version is to say that even if one holds that consciousness is what gives a human being their value, not just "being human" genetically speaking, then anti-abortion folks will argue that if it is OK to kill a non-conscious fetus, it should be OK to kill a person who is in a coma where it is reasonable to believe they will wake from given time.

Typically I do hold that a person's consciousness is what gives them their value, but I do wish to affirm the idea that potential consciousness is enough to establish that a human still has value.

So if one wishes to argue for the right to an abortion is it just wrong to go down the path to say that since a young fetus/embryo is not conscious it therefore has no value and doesn't need to be preserved?

Does the argument as a whole just move towards the primary of bodily autonomy of the mother, which can grant the intrinsic value of the fetus - and that is where the bulk of the modern argument takes place?


I'd appreciate some responses from those more familiar with the arguments on this topic.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Prescriptive Oughts and Atheism: Round 3

Sometimes I miss comment replies for a while.

Then I will notice them and note that I should write something in response, but life happens and I forget.  This is one of those times.

I was having an enjoyable exchange with apologist Maverick Christian (referred to as MC), and his last comment on that thread was left unanswered.  Since the exchange is interesting I've decided to put another actual post on the topic up rather than leave good content buried in a comment thread.

I actually hope that MC doesn't mind my responding so late in this fashion, and I apologize for there being such a delay.  That all said, lets begin.