Saturday, December 30, 2017

Are our Standards Too High for Apologetic Arugments?

Since I'm a contributor to the Real Atheology Facebook group (please give it a like if you haven't already!) I get to see when some other contributors post on apologetics or apologists Facebook posts.  I am generally loathe to reply using my personal Facebook account, so I try to avoid commenting.

Today however, I keep seeing a post pop into my feed and I decided to put a response on my blog to something that was annoyed me in all the wrong ways.

The post comes from the Capturing Christianity account, which I should say is run by quite a nice apologist named Cameron, who seems very sensible even if I think he's dead wrong on a number of topics.

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.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Outrageous Statements and their Defenders

Note: This post has been updated, per the request of John Loftus to include an additional exchange.

With a title like this, you'd think I was going to have a rant about a shitty Christian apologist making outrageous claims about atheism.

Except I'm about to go on a rant about two atheists that I'd otherwise admire making outrageous and indefensible claims about theists.

I'm talking about David Silverman and John Loftus.

There's been some buzz because Justin Schieber publicly criticized this meme from David Silverman's book Fighting God, which was created by Dr. David Madison:

This prompted some rather astounding defenses of Dave Silverman on Twitter from one John Loftus:
So rather than go back and forth with John Loftus on Twitter, I had a brief window of free time to give a full treatment to the criticism of this idea.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Are Atheists celebrating Intellectual Regression?

I had shared the following atheist meme on Twitter, which prompted some reaction from some theologians/apologists I follow.

The strongest reaction coming from Randal Rauser who penned a post about the topic which reveals more context to the quote which I wouldn't endorse.  I'd recommend reading his article.

I posted the following as a comment on his blog, but I liked the themes here so much I decided to include it as a post of my own so as to not lose it. Hopefully it's helpful to others who can strongly relate to the meme, as I do. 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Randal, Reductionism, and Something About Mary

So I was having a pleasant little bit of a Twitter back and forth with theologian and apologist Randal Rauser on philosophy of mind.  Then I went about part of my holiday weekend and when I checked Twitter again I had my mentions blown up and saw that our exchange had attracted some others and got more than a bit testy, and I think confused.

Bad things happen when you try to discuss something like philosophy of mind on a platform like Twitter.

Randal then wrote a blog post regarding the discussion with others on Twitter, which prompted me to finally make good on my comment to Randal about writing my own post about why I thought reductionism wasn't all that implausible.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Prescriptive Ought Part 2: The Revenge!

Maverick Christian (hereby MC) took the time to respond tomy post on his conception of a “prescriptive ought” and I’ve just had too much going on in the real world to craft a proper reply till now.   

In the interim he’s also been busy on a few Facebook threads on the Real Atheology page giving some additional descriptions on how he grounds his prescriptive ought, which I’ll be responding to here as well. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

I was on Real Atheology Episode 11 - On God and Ethics

So last weekend I got to appear on the Real Atheology Podcast hosted by Justin Schieber and Ben Watkins.  We discussed the moral argument and my last set of videos, as well as some additional objections to the argument. 

It was an absolute blast and I was thrilled to be on the show.  I really encourage you to give it a listen and to check out the rest of the Real Atheology catalog.

You can listen to the MP3 on their website or watch it on their YouTube channel which I've embedded here.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Mysterious Case of the Prescriptive Ought

A while ago I had a very pleasant debate on the moral argument with a person named Wade who blogs under the nickname Maverick Christian.   He’s been commenting on the Real Atheology Facebook post I made regarding my new video series, and I wanted to write a post explaining the problems I see with his views. 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Quick Counters to the Moral Argument - Objectivity

Note: What follows below is a transcript of this video
I wanted to cover some of the best objections to the moral argument for gods existence in their own smaller, easier to digest videos.
To sum things up quickly, here’s the standard moral argument for god’s existence:
1.       If god does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.

2.       Objective moral values and duties exist

3.       Therefore god exists

This objection is going to cover problems with the kind of objectivity theistic ethics provides as it relates to moral values.  I intend to show that theistic ethics isn’t quite as objective as apologists claim it to be, and once they try to fix the objectivity problem I’m going to point out, they lay the groundwork that can allow for a similarly objective moral value system that is compatible with atheism.

Quick Counters to the Moral Argument - Moral Duties

Note: What follows below is a transcript of the video
I wanted to cover some of the best objections to the moral argument for gods existence in their own smaller, easier to digest videos.
To sum things up quickly, here’s the standard moral argument for god’s existence:

1.      If god does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.

2.      Objective moral values & duties exist

3.      Therefore god exists

This video is going to show the numerous problems with saying if god does not exist, then objective moral duties cannot exist.

Quick Counters to the Moral Argument - Value

Note: What follows below is a transcript of this video

I wanted to cover some of the best objections to the moral argument for gods existence in their own smaller, easier to digest videos.
To sum things up quickly, here’s the standard moral argument for god’s existence:
1.       If god does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
2.       Objective moral values & duties exist
3.       Therefore god exists

Quick Counters to the Moral Argument - Brute Facts

Note: What follows below is a transcript of this video

I wanted to cover some of the best objections to the moral argument for gods existence in their own smaller, easier to digest videos. 
To sum things up quickly, here’s the standard moral argument for god’s existence:
1.       If god does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.

2.       Objective moral values & duties exist

3.       Therefore god exists
This video is going to cover an objection about what are called “Moral Brute Facts”, which is an idea I got from reading the work of atheist philosopher Erik Wielenberg.

Four Quick Counters to the Moral Argument

I've had this project on the backburner for far too long.  One problem I've had with the long form videos going into refutations of apologetic arguments is that they're long, complex, and can be hard for someone not well versed in philosophy to understand.

As such, I've decided to break down the best arguments I had from my long back and forth series on the Moral Argument with William Lane Craig. 

Above is a playlist that contains four videos I've just created, each one tackling it's own stand alone objection to the moral argument.

You can look at each individual video and read the transcript by going to the following pages:

Brute Facts
Moral Duties

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Missing the Point on Randal's Sermon?

As these tend to go, I had a response post by Randal regarding my critique of his sermon on faith and evidence.

Randal believes I've missed his points and was vitriolic.

Let me begin the reply by going through his three major points, and we'll touch on the last part at the end.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Responding to Randal's Evidence Sermon

It was odd, but a week ago I saw a Twitter notification that Randal Rauser, an apologist I like and respect, had released an audio sermon about Christianity, Faith, and Evidence.
Since I had a full plate of work that I could do while listening to something somewhat engaging, I decided to give it a listen.
It was absolutely infuriating.
Throughout the entire sermon I kept having the mental image of Joe Pesci yelling “Get the fuck outta here!” as we went from one doozy to another. 

 "You gotta be fuckin kidding me!" also works

This felt rather appropriate, because as one of the cherished Patron Saints of Atheism - George Carlin tells us, praying to Joe Pesci is statistically as effective as praying to god.
Woe betide those who go against Cardinal George

So I wanted to get a post together that goes through what’s wrong with it.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Progressive Non-Contradictions - Responding to Elijah

On Twitter I saw a Elijah, an apologist I've had pleasant interactions with in the past go off on his own created hashtag called #ProgressiveContradictions. He's compiled a list of them in a post on his website.

I was a bit disappointed at reading some of these because frankly I expected better from Elijah. In very few cases did he highlight any actual hypocrisy that could be traced to the larger progressive movement.  But the vast majority of cases were going after the most superficial kinds of supposed contradictions - either interpreting statements in the worst ways, or ignoring underlying philosophy which underlies most of the statements and renders it non-contradictory, or just simply presenting views from two sides of the spectrum within progressivism and pretending that individuals hold both views on a topic that is internally contested. 

Honestly this is some kind of bush-league Fox News talk show kind of stuff that you wouldn't expect an educated thinker to engage in.

I pointed out how if an atheist or liberal did this, then Elijah would go nuts and pen blog posts detailing how wrong or stupid the critiques were. Like lets say:

Conservatives say they're pro-life, but for the death penalty! #ConservativeContradictions

Christians believe their god is perfectly mercifuly and perfectly just, but they're mutually exclusive! #ChristianContradictions

Christians say they believe in a god who is three persons, but there is only one god. #ChristianContradictions

Christians believe Jesus was fully man and fully god, but a being can't be completely two different things! #ChristianContradictions

In each case the conservative/christian can give an underlying philosophy or understanding to resolve these problems. While I may not agree, that doesn't mean the statements are inherently incoherent.

Elijah challenged me to show how his examples were not contradictory, and so that's where I intend to get to work.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Responding to Cosmic Skeptic on the Kalam

Recently I saw an apologist I enjoy interacting with throwing some heat at a video by atheist YouTuber Cosmic Skeptic on his latest video about the Kalam.  Since I’ve got a deep history with the argument I wanted to check it out.  You can view the video here:

In short I think Alex is correct that the Kalam is unsound, but he’s right for the wrong reasons in a few cases, and he makes a few other errors along the way. I mentioned this to him on Twitter and he kindly asked me to expand – hence this post.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Atheism and the Intrinsic Value of Human Beings

During a Twitter exchange yesterday I brought up the idea that atheists could account for the intrinsic value of human beings in order to counter the idea that only theism could account for our intrinsic value.

The atheist compatible basis for intrinsic human value is fairly simple: The capability to value anything at all is intrinsically valuable.

Since some human beings have the capability to value something, those that do are therefore inherently valuable.

This idea was challenged by an apologist and theologian I happen to respect and interact with fairly often Stephen J. Graham.

Stephen asks: "Why is the ability to value necessary for possessing intrinsic value?" (Emphasis his)

There is a response to this question, though at first I should make an important point.

The question is somewhat malformed, because like any question for the basis of value, or why something has value - you eventually come to a terminus of your explanation to which one can always ask "but why does that give something value?"

This is as true for theistic conceptions of value as it is for atheistic ones. After all, even if theists say that god simply is defined as being valuable, one could ask why we should consider a being like that to be valuable?

So at some point we reach an explanatory ultimate with regard to value.  The best we can do is evaluable whether or not we consider that explanatory ultimate to be sufficient.

My Answer

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Hemant gets the Moral Argument wrong, badly

It's generally rare that I want to write against an atheist, but here is a case where someone I really like, Hemant Mehta, gets things really wrong in a way that's damaging to how atheists are perceived.

Dennis Prager put out another one of his shitty Prager University videos that is just a conservative hack going through a presentation of the moral argument for god's existence.

Hemant tries to give a takedown of the argument and he mangles it - badly.

This in itself isn't really noteworthy - lots of atheists fuck up responding to apologetic arguments. I've done it tons of times. When that happens, I hope someone comes along and points out where I've made an error and that's what I'm attempting to do here for Hemant.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The last bit of advice for Michael Nugent

I've written two other posts for Michael Nugent on his upcoming debate with William Lane Craig.

Thus far I've focused on refuting Craig's arguments, which is largely my main purpose behind this blog/YouTube account.

But a debate with a prominent apologist isn't completely about simply showing that their cumulative case approach of arguments doesn't work.  A debate is as much about the show between two debaters, and the interactions on stage are going to sadly play far more of a role in viewers minds about "who won" rather than whether Michael was able to refute all of Craig's arguments.

So this is my final piece of advice: Attack! Attack! Attack!

How? Well lets get on to it.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Advice for Michael Nugent - Part 2

Last week I wrote a post dealing with a wide variety of problems for the Kalam Cosmological Argument as a piece of advice for Michael Nugent in his upcoming debate with Christian apologist William Lane Craig.

While I don't intend to go into nearly as much depth here, I did want to sketch a few objections I find to be very strong to the common arguments Craig presents: The Fine Tuning Argument and the Moral Argument.

So lets begin.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Randal Rauser convinces me on the rationality of specific religious belief

I've done a bit of posting on whether or not there is rational justification for belief in a specific religion.

David Marshall tried to get "inside" the argument and state that one could justify belief in specifically Christian miracles. My last post was a long reply about why that isn't at all convincing.

Randal however took the opposite approach, going "outside" the argument to reject my overall approach.

After some back and forth in his comment section, he's convinced me that the argument I'm going after isn't going to undermine rational belief in a specific religion. Here's the relevant text from his comment that really brought the point home:

Saturday, February 18, 2017

David Marshall & The Oppressed Faithless Disciples

A few days ago I put up a post questioning whether or not belief in specific religions could be rationally justified. I'm not completely sure that this argument works yet, and so I specifically requested rebuttals.

The first response I got comes from Christian apologist David Marshall.

Unfortunately for David, his response had quite the opposite effect - I'm now more convinced there's some teeth in the argument. Lets get into a number of misconceptions and problems with David's rebuttal.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Advice for Michael Nugent on Debating William Lane Craig

It was recently announced that Michael Nugent, the Chair of Atheist Ireland, will be debating Christian apologist William Lane Craig.

Michael reached out for advice over Twitter and while I gave him a quick bit of info, I wanted to put together a primer for him on a few key points he may want to use in his upcoming debate.  I figure this can possibly be useful for people looking for a quick overview on counter arguments to Craig's standard argument line as well.

Before I get into the grimy details, I wanted to note a few things.

Are there rational justifications for belief in a specific religion?

I’ve had this idea percolating in my head for some time, and a Twitter interaction with Randal Rauser has forced me to finally put words down in support of it.

My thoughts are fairly ambitious as far as Counter Apologetics goes, though I’m not yet certain the argument will work.  So consider this a request for rebuttals. 

The idea is that jumping from mere theism to belief in a specific religion is not rationally justifiable. This concept isn’t necessarily new.  

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Book Review: "An Atheist and a Christian Walk Into a Bar..."

“An Atheist and a Christian Walk Into a Bar..” is a collaborative work between atheist Justin Schieber and Christian theologian and apologist Randal Rauser

If you’re familiar with my work, you’ll know I’m a big fan of Justin’s work on the Reasonable Doubts Podcast and his new ventures in the Real Atheology YouTube channel which just transitioned into its own podcast.  I also happen to have a bit of a soft spot for Randal.  Randal is one of those apologists that strikes me as quite very honest about how arguments and the like work out, even if we disagree about the conclusions.  If I had to pick an apologist to go have beers with, Randal is one of the few I’d be happy to do so with. 

So those are my biases, coming in I happen to like both authors. Spoiler Alert: This is a positive review.