Saturday, June 18, 2011

Dear EPS Bloggers

If you would please point me to (at least, but hopefully more than) one post on your blog that doesn't ultimately defend conservative views about free markets and the role of government with respect to free markets[1], I'd greatly appreciate it.[2]

Sincerely,
EA

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[1] that is, when the topic is economics, and not, say, philosophical theology.
[2] A slew of recent posts at EPS have been based exclusively on interviews of members of economic libertarian (think Ayn Rand) think tanks -- mainly the Acton Institute and the Atlas Economic Research Foundation. To get some of the flavor of these organizations, here's some pertinent information:

Re: The Acton Institute: "The Acton Institute's staff includes dominion theologian Calvin Beisner as an adjunct scholar. It melds [economic] libertarianism with Christianity, embracing both free markets and a Biblically-based view of environmentalism , and challenges the scientific consensus on global warming. It has received funding from right-wing groups such as the Scaife Family Foundation, the John M. Olin Foundation and the DeVos family,and $215,000 from ExxonMobil (through to 2007)." In addition, "It has played a major role in the revival of natural law in Protestant circles, funding both Protestants and Catholics to write books defending the concept, and sponsoring seminars on the concept in many Protestant schools." (link)

Re: Atlas Economic Research Foundation: "...also known as the Atlas Network, is a non-profit organization based in the United States which organizes and convenes workshops, offers training, runs prize programs, and provides advisory services in order to continue growing and strengthening an informal network of more than 400 free market think tanks in 84 different countries." Also, "The mission of Atlas, according to John Blundell (president from 1987 to 1990), "is to litter the world with free-market think-tanks." (link)

I trust that the EPS bloggers aren't getting monetary compensation for the recent spate of Randian tripe. For of course if they are, then they're flat-out shilling.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Quote for the Day

"Some theists who accept the conclusion of the God as the source of ethics argument fail to appreciate its consequences fully. [William Lane] Craig is an example. One of his central themes is how awful it would be if God did not exist...Craig refers to the “horror of modern man” – facing life in (what “modern man” takes to be) a Godless universe. But if there can be no good or evil if God does not exist, then there can be no evil if God does not exist. So if God doesn’t exist, nothing bad can ever happen to anyone. The conclusion of the God as the source of ethics argument implies that there is nothing good about a Godless universe – but it equally implies that there is nothing bad about it either. If this argument is sound there can be nothing awful or horrible about a Godless universe. The short version of Craig’s self-contradictory message is “Without God there would be no value in the universe – and think how horrible that would be!”"

Erik Wielenberg, Value and Virtue in a Godless Universe, pp. 40-41.

New Paper by John Rist on Morality and Religion

"Morality and Religion: Some Questions About First Principles", Philosophical Investigations 34:2 (2011), 214-238.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Quote for the Day

"Now, my main point: If one were to watch the history of the universe going backwards in time, one would see the energies increasing. Let me make the same point that [William Lane] Craig made about the physics getting speculative, but put in terms of energy. As the energy increases to 100 GeV, the physics becomes speculative – we're not really sure what happens at that point. As the energy increases to 1014 GeV (assuming it does increase to that point) the physics becomes extremely speculative, even unknown. In other words, we just don't know what happens once the energies get that high. The way Craig puts the point, it sounds like we know that there's a big bang, and we know what happens in the history of the universe once 10-12 seconds have passed, but we don't know what happens between the big bang and 10–12 seconds after the big bang. But in fact our lack of knowledge is much more fundamental. Because the physics doesn't tell us what happens once we trace the history of the universe backwards in time to these high energies, we don't even know if there's a big bang at all."

-Bradley Monton, "Physics-Based Intelligent Design Arguments are Based on False Physics"

(note: "1014" should read "10 to the 14th power", and "10-12" should read "10 to the negative twelfth power".)

Thursday, June 09, 2011

God in the Age of Science? A Critique of Religious Reason

Herman Philipse (Utrecht, The Netherlands) has a book coming out (God in the Age of Science? A Critique of Religious Reason, Oxford University Press) that looks to be in the vein of Gregory Dawes' Theism and Explanation. The main difference in approach appears to be that while Dawes evaluated the theistic hypothesis qua inference to the best explanation, Philipse evaluates the theistic hypothesis via Bayes' Theorem. Toward that end, the book will involve a sustained critique of Richard Swinburne's Bayesian case for theism. Here's the blurb:

*A powerful response to philosophical attempts to justify religious belief
*Engages head-on with Richard Swinburne and other leading philosophers of religion
*Original and elegant arguments; written in a clear and accessible style

God in the Age of Science? is a critical examination of strategies for the philosophical defence of religious belief. The main options may be presented as the end nodes of a decision tree for religious believers. The faithful can interpret a creedal statement (e.g. 'God exists') either as a truth claim, or otherwise. If it is a truth claim, they can either be warranted to endorse it without evidence, or not. Finally, if evidence is needed, should its evidential support be assessed by the same logical criteria that we use in evaluating evidence in science, or not? Each of these options has been defended by prominent analytic philosophers of religion.

In part I Herman Philipse assesses these options and argues that the most promising for believers who want to be justified in accepting their creed in our scientific age is the Bayesian cumulative case strategy developed by Richard Swinburne. Parts II and III are devoted to an in-depth analysis of this case for theism. Using a 'strategy of subsidiary arguments', Philipse concludes (1) that theism cannot be stated meaningfully; (2) that if theism were meaningful, it would have no predictive power concerning existing evidence, so that Bayesian arguments cannot get started; and (3) that if the Bayesian cumulative case strategy did work, one should conclude that atheism is more probable than theism. Philipse provides a careful, rigorous, and original critique of theism in the world today.


And here's the table of contents:

Preface
Part I. Natural Theology
1: The Priority of Natural Theology
2: The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of Natural Theology
3: The Reformed Objection to Natural Theology
4: Refutation of the Reformed Objection
5: The Rationality of Natural Theology
6: A Grand Strategy
Part II. Theism as a Theory
7: Analogy, Metaphor, and Coherence
8: God's Necessity
9: The Predictive Power of Theism
10: The Immunization of Theism
Part III. The Probability of Theism
11: Ultimate Explanation and Prior Probability
12: Cosmological Arguments
13: Arguments from Order to Design
14: Other Inductive Arguments
15: Religious Experience and the Burden of Proof
Conclusion
References
Index

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

New Paper on Gratuitous Evil

Bass, Robert. "Many Inscrutable Evils", Ars Disputandi (forthcoming).

Here's the abstract:

I examine the evidential argument from inscrutable evil, evil for which we can see no morally adequate reason. Such evils are often thought to provide evidence for the existence of gratuitous evil that God could not be justified in allowing, but arguments for this are often informal and intuitive. I try to contribute greater rigor by developing a probabilistic argument that large numbers of inscrutable evils are strong evidence for the existence of gratuitous evil. Then, I consider and reject two plausible replies on behalf of the theist.
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