Quote of the week: Gene Witmer on how Christian presuppositionalists see us

25 02 2009

Warning . . . it’s a long one:

Key to the presuppositionalist position are two psychological claims about believers and unbelievers. I’ll use “unbeliever” here as a blanket term for anyone who fails to believe that God exists, including those who believe that there is no God and those who simply don’t believe either way.

The first claim: So-called unbelievers in fact already know that God exists. Their declarations to the contrary simply manifest a kind of willful self-deception and sin.

The second claim: This knowledge manifests itself in various things the unbeliever does and says. So, for instance, when the unbeliever reasons or makes moral judgments, he betrays this implicit knowledge. He in fact constantly, without acknowledgement, “presupposes” this knowledge. Hence the name “Presuppositionalism.” [. . .] Read the rest of this entry »

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If it’s Tuesday, it must be schadenfreude

6 01 2009

. . . or perhaps just your garden-variety pwnage. Quadrant editor and right-wing culture-warrior Keith Windschuttle has Sokal on his face.

Via Larvatus Prodeo





Another apologist flushes his brains down the toilet wrt to ethical reasoning . . . and counsels the rest of us to do likewise

22 12 2008

Prepare to stifle a yawn as yet another Christian apologist deludes himself that he is saying something insightful about atheism and morality:

. . . while we can certainly agree with Harris that we can know objective moral truths “without reference to scripture,” we are left wondering how human value and dignity could emerge given naturalism’s valueless, mindless, materialist origins. If, on the other hand, humans are made in the divine image and are morally constituted to reflect God in certain ways, then atheists as well as theists can recognize objective right and wrong and human dignity-without the assistance of special revelation (Rom. 2:14-15). But the atheist is still left without a proper metaphysical context for affirming such moral dignity and responsibility. And despite Harris’s claims, naturalism seems to be morally pretentious in claiming the moral high ground, though without any metaphysical basis for doing so. No, biblical theism, with its emphasis on God’s creating humans in his image, is our best hope for grounding objective moral values and human dignity and worth. (Via Richard Dawkins)

What makes biblical theism—which basically boils down to “right and wrong are what God judges to be right and wrong”—a proper metaphysical basis for morality? All the apologist is doing is allowing his holy book to do his thinking for him. Far from accepting responsibility for his views on morality, he simply passes the buck upstairs. “Don’t ask me, man. I’m just following orders.”

You want to be taken seriously when you claim the moral high ground over the unbelievers? You’re going to have to ask, and make more than a half-assed attempt at addressing, some pretty hard questions about your deity’s ethical philosophy. Let’s take, for instance, the injunction against murder. All we can garner from the Bible is that God thinks that murder is wrong. We don’t know why God thinks murder is wrong. We have no means of subjecting his arguments in support of his position to critical scrutiny because, well, he offers none. Murder is wrong, my dear sheeple, because God says it’s wrong. That is all ye know, and all ye need to know.

I am of course highly dubious about the concept of “objective right and wrong.” There is a difference between simply asserting that these exist—which is a very simple exercise which can be performed by anyone, and has been performed by many—and showing that they exist. Demonstrating that theists and atheists alike can have ideas about objective right and wrong does not solve the problem (and certainly does not constitute evidence that humans are made in the image of a deity, as the apologist presumes): all it demonstrates is that we have certain ideas about morality. That the “hardwiring” of such ideas may have given our ancestors a survival advantage is the subject of fruitful research in psychology and neuroscience, and is certainly more parsimonious an explanation (i.e. for why we have such ideas about morality as opposed to why they may or may not be the correct ideas) than the “Goddidit” argument from ignorance the apologist is serving us.





“Godless communism has done plenty of atrocities in its attempt to create Utopia (heaven on earth). But that, seemingly, is justified if you’re an atheist.”

26 11 2008

Discuss.

(My response here.)

UPDATE: I recommend this article to anyone looking for a sound and thorough elaboration of the counterargument to novparl’s assertion cited in the title of this post. (PDF version also available.)





It’s World Philosophy Day

20 11 2008

And at ABC News Online there is call for more philosophy and critical thinking in Australian schools. I share this view, though I find much to disagree with in Kellie Tranter’s article—especially her uncrtical citing of the think-tank Future Directions’ yearning for “a recognisable spiritual set of values and hierarchy.” But I have long felt that explicit instruction in critical thinking is at least as important as functional English.

Anyway, in the spirit of World Philosophy Day . . . .

By the way, if you haven’t done so already, do (as Ninglun would say) train your podcast feeds on The Philosopher’s Zone and Philosophy Bites.

And I might take the opportunity to bleg: if anyone is aware of decent philosophy/critical thinking in ESL resources, please let me know.





Too much book-learning makes baby Jesus cry

19 11 2008

In 1378 John Wycliffe first translated the Bible into English . . . and it appears certain rightwing Catholics are rueing the day.

The Rt Rev Patrick O’Donoghue, the Bishop of Lancaster, has claimed that graduates are spreading scepticism and sowing dissent. Instead of following the Church’s teaching they are “hedonistic”, “selfish” and “egocentric”, he said. [. . .] While not naming names, he suggested that such people had been compromised by their education, which he said had a “dark side, due to original sin”.Prominent Catholics in public life include Mark Thompson, the BBC’s director general, and Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister.

Bishop O’Donoghue, who has recently published a report on how to renew Catholicism in Britain, argued that mass education has led to “sickness in the Church and wider society”

In short, too much education is teh evil, because those Catholics who have eaten of this forbidden fruit and have become influential have “corrupted the faith of those who had not gone to university.” And what’s worse,

In the case of education, we can see its distortion through the widespread dissemination of radical scepticism, positivism, utilitarianism and relativism.”Taken together, these intellectual trends have resulted in a fragmented society that marginalizes God, with many people mistakenly thinking they can live happy and productive lives without him.

Just think . . . all this time I’ve been depressed and unproductive because I lack belief in the existence of deities. Ditto, these sad and lazy fools.

But O’Donoghue isn’t the first British Catholic clergyman to attack thinking: earlier this year the highest-ranked Catholic in the land warned that reason leads to terror and oppression. It’s just O’Donoghue is far more abrupt about what is at stake: educated Catholics, their minds poisoned by the “dark side” of their education—“original sin and concupiscence”—leading the sheep astray. Is this the voice of an institution worried about its waning power and influence, and increasing irrelevance? Or is it the voice of an institution that is in so much despair about its ability to defend its theological claims with reasoned argument and evidence, that it simply falls to demonising reason itself and demonising those who, having set foot inside the gates of a university, have developed the capacity to question Catholic dogma (and we can’t have that)?

Perhaps it’s both.





If it’s Saturday, it must be pareidolia

8 11 2008

Via Switched.

See also the Pareidolia and Ghost entries at The Skeptic’s Dictionary.