News Bits

by Luke Muehlhauser on October 3, 2009 in News

Vox Day has published his second reply letter to me.

My favorite atheism podcast, Reasonable Doubts, continues to produce awesome episodes. Of particular note are The Disunity of the Bible parts I and II, an excellent followup to two of their best episodes ever: Cross-Examining the Four Witnesses parts I and II.

I recently uploaded dozens more articles to my list of 100+ Living Philosophers of Religion and Their Best Work.

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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

IntelligentDasein October 3, 2009 at 9:13 am

I like how he is apparently publishing a book that is going to hose evolutionary theory and dismiss it. That always makes he chuckle.

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Justfinethanks October 3, 2009 at 10:31 am

And I like how you dismantled his case against evolution point by point, and yet he still insists that his original points are valid without even attempting to address your airtight counter arguments.

This dude looks like a case study of the Dunning Krueger effect.

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Andy Walters October 3, 2009 at 10:59 am

Luke,

Do check out my comment on his letter (andywalters is the username). It sparked some dialogue you might find useful in your response.

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ayer October 3, 2009 at 11:12 am

Actually Vox makes some excellent points:

Vox: “…it is clear that my belief in Christianity remains rationally justified even if I cannot conclusively prove its truth to anyone else’s satisfaction.”

This is in line with Plantinga’s devastatingly effective argument for the a priori rationality of Christian belief in his magisterial “Warranted Christian Belief”, available in full at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/plantinga/warrant3.i.html
The burden is on the skeptic to offer defeaters for Christian belief.

Vox: “The Christian God does not rule this world. The being that Jesus described as “the prince of this world” in John 14:30 does. To fail to understand this vital point is to completely fail to understand Christianity, since one cannot possibly understand the significance of the Redeemer if one does not understand from what, and from whom, Man must be redeemed.”

This is another excellent point, in line with Greg Boyd’s groundbreaking work on Satan and the problem of evil
http://www.gregboyd.org/essays/essays-spiritual-warfare/intro-to-warfare-worldview/

I do, however, disagree with Vox when he says:
“On the sixth point, I have no problem whatsoever admitting that the resurrection of Jesus Christ, even if it were demonstrated to be an incontrovertible historical fact, does not conclusively prove that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that there is an immortal soul, that Heaven exists, or that Jesus is the only way to it.”

While one is certainly rationally justified in Christian belief regardless of historical investigation into the resurrection, if a skeptic became convinced of the historicity of the resurrection in its religio-historical context, then the radical claims of Jesus and the apostles would have to be regarded as vindicated and the doctrines of the divinity of Christ, the afterlife, etc. could be accepted on the basis of authority (a point Peter Kreeft makes in “Between Heaven and Hell” : http://tinyurl.com/ye44jgm

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lukeprog October 3, 2009 at 12:48 pm

ayer,

Reformed epistemology is, like Pascal’s Wager, so dumb I can barely bring myself to even shrug in its direction.

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Lee A. P. October 3, 2009 at 1:00 pm

The guy just babbles without ever saying anything of substance.

“And you would also know that professional, academic, and scientific consensus mean absolutely nothing to me.”

Ya don’t say.

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Justfinethanks October 3, 2009 at 1:18 pm

Reformed epistemology is, like Pascal’s Wager, so dumb I can barely bring myself to even shrug in its direction.

A brief history of Christian theology

Apostle Paul (1st Century): The existence of God is obvious and proven.

Aquinas (13th Century): The existence of God is not obvious, but it is provable.

Plantiga (20th Century): The existence of God IS obvious, and I don’t have to prove shit to you assholes.

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Josh October 3, 2009 at 1:49 pm

I thought that Vox’s first response, while completely wrong, was at least somewhat coherent.

I’m really not sure what he’s getting at here. I’ll give it another read later tonight :)

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lukeprog October 3, 2009 at 1:54 pm

Justfinethanks:

LOL!

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ayer October 3, 2009 at 2:26 pm

lukeprog: ayer,

Reformed epistemology is, like Pascal’s Wager, so dumb I can barely bring myself to even shrug in its direction.

Hmm, yes, I guess even though Plantinga is considered one of the top analytical philosophers of the twentieth century, even by atheist philosophers like Quentin Smith (see:

http://www.qsmithwmu.com/metaphilosophy_of_naturalism.htm )
the fact that you consider it “dumb” is a devastating appraisal of its significance.

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Lee A. P. October 3, 2009 at 3:57 pm

And yet Quetin Smith still does not agree with Plantinga. All this means is that he is the best in the world at defending stupid ideas.

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Teleprompter October 3, 2009 at 4:48 pm

I am not impressed with Vox’s conduct in this exchange, to say the least.

When I confronted him over his preposterous abuse of autism as a derisive slur toward those who disagree with his ideas, what was his first response?

“First, you’ve obviously mistaken me for someone who cares about your opinion.”

Luke, in the end, do you sincerely believe that Vox cares about anything you’re going to say? No matter what evidence or arguments you present, it’s more than likely that he’ll just ignore them and believe whatever he wants to believe. It’s patently obvious to me that Vox doesn’t give a damn about anyone else’s opinion other than his own – the mark of a truly closed-minded fundamentalist.

Please forgive me for the tone of this comment, but I am truly incensed right now.

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ayer October 3, 2009 at 5:25 pm

Justfinethanks: A brief history of Christian theology

Apostle Paul (1st Century): The existence of God is obvious and proven.

Aquinas (13th Century): The existence of God is not obvious, but it is provable.

Plantiga (20th Century): The existence of God IS obvious, and I don’t have to prove shit to you assholes.

This just demonstrates that you lack of familiarity with Plantinga, because his epistemological model in Warranted Christian Belief is “the Aquinas/Calvin” model. There is no conflict among Paul, Aquinas and Plantinga.

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lukeprog October 3, 2009 at 5:56 pm

Teleprompter: Luke, in the end, do you sincerely believe that Vox cares about anything you’re going to say?

I kinda suspect Vox doesn’t care about anything I say, but I think it will be an interesting discussion for the rest of us, anyway.

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MC October 3, 2009 at 6:22 pm

The comment made by ‘ayer’ makes me reflect on the nature of his comment, and its pervasiveness and purpose:

Legitimacy and truth through “saturating the market”:

I’m really baffled as to why so many Christian apologists (both lay- and professional!), whether they are arguing for the truth of the Resurrection or for the legitimacy of their arguments (and their proponents to make them)– feel that the seriousness with which others with high academic status and/or credentials argue for or against p somehow makes p more likely or magically rids them of their fallacies or damming counterexamples.

I believe these people think that this means no matter what problems assail the arguments there must be something very important or true about them in virtue of their continued belief in them as manifested through their own enormous culture of religious apologetics, religious liturgy, religious history, religious literature, religious community(-ies), etc.

It appears that it amounts to an enormous ad populum: “p is very probably true because I and many others who I respect (translation: “those who agree with me and/or strengthen my beliefs”) also believe p is very probably true.”

Confirmation bias run amok! It appears that they add the overall intelligence or seriousness of the arguer to their probability calculus for the likelihood that some argument p is true! According to this, in their estimation even arguments ~p actually make arguments for p more rational or more likely!

Why do so many think that “Plantinga (et al.) write about p a lot!” assures a free pass around using the argumentum ad verecundiam fallacy for p?

This is also manifested in a meme among evangelicals and a few B-list apologists like Ravi Zacharaias, Sean McDowell, and Norm Geisler, which goes something like this: “Why is it that 2000 years later Jesus is still the most controversial and talked about figure in the world? There must be something very special about Jesus alone that isn’t found among other religions or religious figures…”

That others make a big stink about p doesn’t make p more legitimate as a real subject of discussion or more likely to be true (or false). It is as question-begging as the Intelligent Design “Wedge”-strategists who, in an attempt to get ID taught in public schools, will actually cite their own drummed-up opposition to evolution as a reason to teach ID in public schools (“Teach The Controversy!”). It does not at all bolster the case of theism or Christianity that van Inwagen defends restricted composition well, or that Antony Flew was once an atheist. There is far too much cheerleading going on in Christian apologetics, taking their own apologetical activities as evidence of the truth of their apologetics. Bizarre.

Having taken a stroll around a “Family Christian Stores” store and taking in (too much) religious media, it seems that many Christians and Christian apologists believe that the legitimacy of their beliefs will persist as long as they just keep talking about Christianity, theology, and the endless minutiae of their religious issues/topics.

Notice how over at the Prosblogion blog (or even in Religious Studies) there is no Muslim philosophy going on, or any arguments using Bayesian probability calculi to establish the likelihood of Xenu using H-Bombs in volcanoes or Joseph Smith using the Urim and Thummim in translating the Book of Mormon. Just think what it would do to their faith if there was serious, hard-core philosophical arguments about those topics among the philosophers at the Prosblogion blog.

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Justfinethanks October 3, 2009 at 6:46 pm

First, you’ve obviously mistaken me for someone who cares about your opinion.

Actually, I find Theodore’s “I don’t give a shit” posturing adorable. It really shows that the “cool” brand of Christianity has finally caught up to the attitudes of youth in 1991. (Why does it always seem to be about 20 years behind?) He should get together with some rappers and Indie rockers to have an apathy-off. The winner will be selected by Lil Jon.

This just demonstrates that you lack of familiarity with Plantinga

This just demonstrates your inability to distinguish between a joke and an argument.

Perhaps you would also like to elaborate your thoughts on Monty Python’s woefully misinformed Christology as evidenced by “Life of Brian”?

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ayer October 3, 2009 at 6:47 pm

MC: in virtue of their continued belief in them as manifested through their own enormous culture of religious apologetics, religious liturgy, religious history, religious literature, religious community(-ies), etc.

No, the point is that Plantinga, et al are widely published in peer-reviewed journals in their field (the very thing that intelligent design theorists fail to do and thus are rightly dismissed as a result)–therefore reformed epistemologists cannot be dismissed in one sentence as “dumb” (at least if the person doing the dismissing wishes to be taken seriously).

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ayer October 3, 2009 at 6:50 pm

Justfinethanks: This just demonstrates your inability to distinguish between a joke and an argument.

Yes, why didn’t I see that? Hilarious.

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IntelligentDasein October 3, 2009 at 8:10 pm

there have been a few time that the recent Christian posters have not been able to tell a joke and get all butt-hurt. Learn how to take a joke. When I was a Christian, I wouldn’t be pissed by jokes and now that I am an atheist, I don’t get pissed about atheist jokes.

Lighten up, you sound like a Muslim when you are offended by every statement.

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Beelzebub October 4, 2009 at 1:29 am

MC – Brilliant comment. All through the “Jesus Tomb” documentary I kept thinking that there’s no possible way archaeologists are ever going to verify that Jesus was entombed in an ossuary in Jerusalem. Not because I have the historical wherewithal to have an informed opinion but because of the extraordinary historical, cultural and religious inertia that would have to be diverted if it were actually true. That was a memorable impression.

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Beelzebub October 4, 2009 at 1:41 am

Teleprompter: Please forgive me for the tone of this comment, but I am truly incensed right now.

I hung around the Vox Day blog for a year and a half out of pure sadomasochistic fascination, and I can tell you without the tiniest shadow of a doubt that your opinion is never going to get any better. To be fair, it’s a product of the blogosphere, where we give free rein to the inner and inert working of our id, and I have indulged myself as well. You either give yourself over to your most basic excesses, in some vain attempt to discover something new about yourself, or you stick with conservative restraint, or you do one and return to the other. Vox Day has never returned to “the other,” and it shows. If you consider him a chronological 40 year old who is really 17 with “issues,” you won’t be far off.

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Lee A. P. October 4, 2009 at 5:34 pm

ayer: No, the point is that Plantinga, et al are widely published in peer-reviewed journals in their field (the very thing that intelligent design theorists fail to do and thus are rightly dismissed as a result)–therefore reformed epistemologists cannot be dismissed in one sentence as “dumb” (at least if the person doing the dismissing wishes to be taken seriously).

There is a large difference between the disciples of philosophy and biology. Biology is an empiricle science. there is a huge distinction there. There are peer reviewed Muslim philosphers and pan theists as well. Philosphy is not a hard science. Its really a poor point when you understand that distinction.

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ayer October 4, 2009 at 5:41 pm

Lee A. P.:
There is a large difference between the disciples of philosophy and biology. Biology is an empiricle science. there is a huge distinction there. There are peer reviewed Muslim philosphers and pan theists as well. Philosphy is not a hard science. Its really a poor point when you understand that distinction.

I think lukeprog might disagree with your extreme dissing of the entire field of philosophy.

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Lee A. P. October 4, 2009 at 5:56 pm

ayer: I think lukeprog might disagree with your extreme dissing of the entire field of philosophy.

I am not dismissing the field, I am acknowledging a disction. The world of philosophy handles some abstract ideas. Biology, again, is a science. So to compare the peer review process to one another is simply missing the point. We are talking about two completely different disciples.

Plantinga is repected in the world of religious philosophy. That he is peer reviewed does not make his ideas true. That a certain aspect of biology has been peer reviwed, evidences and accepted can and sometimes does make it true. Again, a poor, poor comparison here.

On a related note:

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/05/alvin_plantinga_gives_philosop.php

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ayer October 4, 2009 at 7:19 pm

Lee A. P.: On a related note:

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/05/alvin_plantinga_gives_philosop.php

The key passage in the post you cite is this:

“Brains are not reliable; they’ve been shaped by forces which, as has been clearly said, do not value Truth with a capital T. Scientists are all skeptics who do not trust their perceptions at all; we design experiments to challenge our assumptions, we measure everything multiple times in multiple ways, we get input from many people, we put our ideas out in public for criticism, we repeat experiments and observations over and over. We demand repeated and repeatable confirmation before we accept a conclusion, because our minds are not reliable.”

This has been addressed by Plantinga. Non-truth-attaining faculties utilizing scientific reasoning do not become truth-attaining by doing so (see http://hisdefense.org/articles/ap001.html):

“Could the adherent of naturalism get a defeater for this defeater: a defeater-defeater? Maybe by doing some science, by, e.g., determining by scientific means that his faculties really are reliable?

But of course that would presuppose that his faculties are reliable. See Thomas Reid (Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man):

‘If a man’s honesty were called into question, it would be ridiculous to refer to the man’s own word, whether he be honest or not. The same absurdity there is in attempting to prove, by any kind of reasoning, probable or demonstrative, that our reason is not fallacious, since the very point in question is, whether reasoning may be trusted.(276)’

Is there any sensible way at all in which he can argue for the reliability of his cognitive faculties? Any argument he might produce will have premises; and these premises, he claims, give him good reason to believe in the reliability of his faculties. But of course he has the very same defeater for each of those premises that he has for the reliability of his faculties.

So this defeater of naturalism can’t be defeated.

We could also put it like this: any argument he offers, for the reliability of his faculties, is circular or question begging. Naturalistic evolution gives its adherents a reason for doubting that our beliefs are mostly true; perhaps they are mostly mistaken; for the very reason for mistrusting our cognitive faculties generally, will be a reason for mistrusting the faculties that produce belief in the goodness of the argument.

Hence the devotee of naturalism has a defeater for naturalism – a defeater, furthermore, that can’t be defeated. So naturalism is self-defeating, and can’t rationally be accepted.

One who contemplates accepting naturalism, and is torn, let’s say, between naturalism and theism, would reason as follows: if I were to accept naturalism, I would have a good reason to be agnostic about naturalism; so I shouldn’t accept it.

The traditional theist, on the other hand, has no corresponding reason for doubting that it is a purpose of our cognitive systems to produce true beliefs, nor any reason for thinking the probability of a belief’s being true, given that it is a product of her cognitive faculties, is low or inscrutable. She may indeed endorse some form of evolution; but if she does, it will be a form of evolution guided and orchestrated by God. And qua traditional theist — qua Jewish, Muslem, or Christian theist – she believes that God is the premier knower and has created us human beings in his image, an important part of which involves his giving them what is needed to have knowledge, just as he does.

The conclusion to be drawn, therefore, is that the conjunction of naturalism with evolutionary theory is self-defeating: it provides for itself an undefeated defeater. It is therefore unacceptable and irrational.”

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drj October 4, 2009 at 8:12 pm

ayer:
The traditional theist, on the other hand, has no corresponding reason for doubting that it is a purpose of our cognitive systems to produce true beliefs, nor any reason for thinking the probability of a belief’s being true, given that it is a product of her cognitive faculties, is low or inscrutable. She may indeed endorse some form of evolution; but if she does, it will be a form of evolution guided and orchestrated by God. And qua traditional theist — qua Jewish, Muslem, or Christian theist – she believes that God is the premier knower and has created us human beings in his image, an important part of which involves his giving them what is needed to have knowledge, just as he does.The conclusion to be drawn, therefore, is that the conjunction of naturalism with evolutionary theory is self-defeating: it provides for itself an undefeated defeater. It is therefore unacceptable and irrational.”

First, for the argument to even get off the ground there has to be some pretty massive assumptions about epistemology. Namely, one has to reject the possibility that utility might actually correspond with the accuracy of some beliefs. Hardly something to be just asserted and accepted.

But in any case, the traditional theist has no grounds to think or assume their beliefs are mostly true. Whether or not theists can claim some of their beliefs are true, they must still account for the absolutely massive and pervasive epidemic of false beliefs – throughout the majority of the world, throughout the majority of history, anywhere and everywhere. Indeed, its probably arguable that most of the beliefs held by most of the people in the world who have ever lived, have been totally false.

To explain the prevalence of false belief, the Christian theist must introduce some concepts that will undermine the very reliability of mind that Plantinga claims theism provides; evil demons, the devil, and of course… sin (is there anything sin CAN’T do?).

Plantinga even argues that sin can harm the brain to such an extent that it is unable to detect properly basic truths, such as the existence of God (causing atheism). Christian theism then becomes just as question-begging as Plantinga claims naturalism is, if we apply his logic to it, since a mind’s truth detecting faculties can be harmed so fundamentally – he has no grounds to assert that his own mind, or your mind, has not been tampered with in some fundamental way.

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Josh October 4, 2009 at 8:18 pm

“Christian theism then becomes just as question-begging as Plantinga claims naturalism is, if we apply his logic to it, since a mind’s truth detecting faculties can be harmed so fundamentally – he has no grounds to assert that his own mind, or your mind, has not been tampered with in some fundamental way.”

Trickster god for the win. I really hope (not just out of a selfish desire for eternal reward) that if any god turns out to be real, it’s the trickster god—you know, the one that rewards and values nonbelief and punishes belief, just because he’s a jerk.

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drj October 4, 2009 at 8:26 pm

Futhermore, Christian theists like Plantinga and Craig generally assert this is the best possible world, where the number of souls that will be saved is the largest it could possibly be. But this in no way guarantees that a majority of souls will be saved. It might not be logically possible for a majority of souls to be saved.

Likewise, we cannot be sure that majority of our beliefs are true – nor that the majority of people are capable of forming true beliefs. The majority might be hell-bound and be totally incapable of recognizing true beliefs. This “best possible world” very well might only contain a minority of human beings who can have true beliefs or will be saved – we have no way to know.

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Justfinethanks October 4, 2009 at 8:28 pm

Trickster god for the win.

You know, I really think that the “trickster god” idea is more than just a thought experiment for some hypothetical religious belief. Given Yaweh’s propensity for deceit and lies…

(e.g.

2 Thess 2:11
For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie

Ezekiel 14:9
And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the LORD have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel.

Ezekiel 20:25
Wherefore I gave them also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live.)

…the Christian God IS a trickster God.

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drj October 4, 2009 at 8:41 pm

Justfinethanks: …the Christian God IS a trickster God.

It really makes you think the old gnostic Christians were on to something, sometimes…

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ayer October 5, 2009 at 7:27 am

Josh: Trickster god for the win. I really hope (not just out of a selfish desire for eternal reward) that if any god turns out to be real, it’s the trickster god—you know, the one that rewards and values nonbelief and punishes belief, just because he’s a jerk.

Actually, in Christian theology there’s this “other place” in the afterlife with a four-letter name where some unfortunate souls get the opportunity to spend eternity with a “trickster-jerk” entity whose name starts with an “S”

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