Friday, July 29, 2011

Quote for the Day

(One of Richard Swinburne's criticisms of Plantinga's evolutionary argument against naturalism:)

‘All this [i.e., a scenario in which organisms like us evolve in such a way that the beliefs in their belief/desire pairs are sytematically false, and yet they produce adaptive behavior] is logically possible. But it would require a very complicated mechanism of belief and desire production by our brains to bring it about. By far the simplest mechanisms ... for producing beliefs and desires will be two separate mechanisms, one of which produces beliefs and the other of which produces desires. So, for given beliefs different desires would lead to different behaviour; and, conversely, for given desires different beliefs would lead to different behaviour. Plantinga-type scenarios are not compatible with this ... It is much more probable that, if biochemical processes cause beliefs and desires and these cause behaviour, those processes would throw up simple mechanisms than that they would throw up very complicated ones in which beliefs vary with desires in such a way as to cause behaviour that mimics that caused by simple mechanisms’ (Swinburne, The Existence of God, 2nd ed., 2004, 352-353).

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Krugman on the GOP's Use of Blackmail in the Debt Ceiling Negotiations


Maitzen's New Paper

"Stop Asking Why There's Anything", Erkenntnis (forthcoming).

Here's the abstract:
Why is there anything, rather than nothing at all? This question often serves as a debating tactic used by theists to attack naturalism. Many people apparently regard the question—couched in such stark, general terms—as too profound for natural science to answer. It is unanswerable by science, I argue, not because it’s profound or because science is superficial but because the question, as it stands, is ill-posed and hence has no answer in the first place. In any form in which it is well-posed, it has an answer that naturalism can in principle provide. The question therefore gives the foes of naturalism none of the ammunition that many on both sides of the debate think it does.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Four Arguments in Craig's "The Absurdity of Life Without God"

Here are what I take to be the four main arguments in Craig's "The Absurdity of Life Without God". I've given each a label for ease of reference. Textual support for each argument can be found in the footnotes.

The Argument Against Atheistic Meaning and Significance[1]
1. If atheism is true, then there is no God and there is no immortality.
2. If there is no God and there is no immortality, then life lacks adequate meaning and significance.
3. Therefore, if atheism is true, then life lacks adequate meaning and significance.

The Argument Against Atheistic Moral Motivation[2]
1. If there is no God, then one’s ultimate destiny is unrelated to one’s behavior.
2. If one’s ultimate destiny is unrelated to one’s behavior, then one has no good reason to be moral.
3. Therefore, if there is no God, then one has no good reason to be moral.

The Argument Against Atheistic Morality[3]
1. If there is no God, then moral values are just expressions of personal taste or the product of evolution and conditioning.
2. If moral values are just expressions of personal taste or the product of evolution and conditioning, then objective moral values do not exist.
3. Therefore, if there is no God, then objective moral values do not exist.

The Argument Against Atheistic Purpose[4]
1. If there is no God, then our lives (and the universe) will end and we’re an accident of nature.
2. If our lives (and the universe) will end and we’re an accident of nature, then life has no ultimate purpose.
3. Therefore, if there is no God, then life has no ultimate purpose.

[1] Textual basis:
(a) “If each individual person passes out of existence when he dies, then what ultimate meaning can be given to his life? Does it really matter whether he ever existed at all? It might be said that his life was important because it influenced others or affected the course of history. But this only shows a relative significance to his life, not an ultimate significance. His life may be important relative to certain other events, but what is the ultimate significance of any of those events? If all the events are meaningless, then what can be the ultimate meaning of influencing any of them? Ultimately it makes no difference.” (p. 5)

(b) “But it is important to see that it is not just immortality that man needs if life is to be meaningful. Mere duration of existence does not make that existence meaningful. If man and the universe could exist forever, but if there were no God, their existence would still have no ultimate significance.” (p.6)

(c) Now if God does not exist, our lives...could go on and on and still be utterly without meaning. We could still ask of life, “So what?” So it is not just immortality man needs if life is to be ultimately significant; he needs God and immortality. And if God does not exist, then he has neither.” (p. 6)

[2] Textual basis: “If life ends at the grave, then it makes no difference whether one has lived as a Stalin or as a saint. Since one’s destiny is ultimately unrelated to one’s behavior, you may as well just live as you please. As Dostoyevsky put it: “If there is no immortality then all things are permitted.” On this basis, a writer like Ayn Rand is absolutely correct to praise the virtues of selfishness. Live totally for self; no one holds you accountable! Indeed, it would be foolish to do anything else, for life is too short to jeopardize it by acting out of anything but pure self-interest. Sacrifice for another person would be stupid.” (p. 6)

[3] Textual basis: “But the problem becomes even worse. For, regardless of immortality, if there is no God, then there can be no objective standards of right and wrong. All we are confronted with is, in Jean-Paul Sartre’s words, the bare, valueless fact of existence. Moral values are either just expressions of personal taste or the by-products of socio-biological evolution and conditioning.” (p. 6)

[4] Textual basis:

(a) “If death stands with open arms at the end of life’s trail, then what is the goal of life? To what end has life been lived? Is it all for nothing? Is there no reason for life? And what of the universe? Is it utterly pointless? If its destiny is a cold grave in the recesses of outer space, the answer must be yes — it is pointless. There is no goal, no purpose, for the universe. The litter of a dead universe will just go on expanding and expanding — forever.” (p. 7)

(b) "...even if it did not end in death, without God life would still be without purpose. For man and the universe would then be simple accidents of chance, thrust into existence for no reason. Without God the universe is the result of a cosmic accident, a chance explosion. There is no reason for which it exists. As for man, he is a freak of nature — a blind product of matter plus time plus chance. Man is just a lump of slime that evolved into rationality. There is no more purpose in life for the human race
Than for a species of insect; for both are the result of the blind interaction of chance and necessity” (p. 7)

(c) “So if God does not exist, that means that man and the universe exist to no purpose — since the end of everything is death — and that they came to be for no purpose, since they are only blind products of chance. In short, life is utterly without reason.” (p. 7)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Krugman on Fox News Owner Rupert Murdoch's Apparently Criminal Enterprise

I trust you all have been following the news about the criminal behavior of Rupert Murdoch's disinformation news outlets. Krugman comments on it here. Let's hope he goes down with his conglomerate.

"The name of the wicked shall rot" (Proverbs 10:7). Amen.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Pereboom's Tentative Defense of Russellian Monism

I'm pleased to see another prominent philosopher come out to defend Liberal Naturalism, viz., Derk Pereboom. In his latest book, Consciousness and the Prospects of Physicalism, Pereboom offers a tentative defense of Russellian monism. A review of the book can be found here.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Book Talk Podcast Interview: Aikin and Tallisse on Reasonable Atheism and Respectful Disbelief

Philosophers Scott Aikin and Robert Talisse discussed their recent book, Reasonable Atheism: A Moral Case for Respectful Disbelief on a recent episode of the podcast, Book Talk. Here is the link.

Rota on Evolution, Providence, and Gouldian Contingency

This interesting paper by Michael Rota (University of St. Thomas) came out a few years ago, but I recently noticed that it's now available online.

Abstract: Stephen Jay Gould and others have argued that what we know about
evolution implies that human beings are a ‘cosmic accident’. In this paper I examine
an argument for Gould’s view and then attempt to show that it fails. Contrary to the
claims of Gould, Daniel Dennett, and others, it is a mistake to think that what we
have learned from evolutionary biology somehow shows that human beings are
mere accidents of natural history. Nor does what we know about the contingency of
evolution give us good reason to reject the view that human beings came to be
according to a divine providential plan.
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