Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Shadow To Light Doesn't See the Light

For some time now, I have noticed that Mikey at Shadow To Light makes the mistake of identifying social justice warriors (SJW) with atheism (as well as other demographic groups, such as transhumanists).  See here, for example.  This is rather remarkable, because the majority of SJWs are not atheists.  This is what Mikey said recently:
It’s good to see that New Atheists have begun to figure out how reality works.  For a long time now, I have criticized one of the central claims of the New Atheist movement, the notion that if we could only get rid of religion, the world would be a much better place.  Not only was there no evidence to support this belief (which, ironically, was little more than faith), but the evidence we did have pointed in the other direction.  And what was that evidence?  The atheist community itself.  A crystal clear example of what I was talking about was Elevatorgate and the rage-filled rhetorical wars between the New Atheists and Social Justice atheists.  The existence of the Social Justice atheists, along with their power and influence, clearly showed there is no reason to believe that a world without religion would be any better than the one we have. - Shadow To Light
So Boghossian finally sees the light because he has criticized SJWs?  OK, the Elevatorgate debacle was an example of ridiculous behavior among SJWs who happen to be atheists.  But that whole episode just goes to show the absurd behavior of SJWs in general.  It says nothing at all about the broader atheist community, nor does it prove or disprove any claims about whether the world would be better off without religion.  Not surprisingly, Mikey fails to explain how he makes the logical link between atheist SJWs and the question of whether the world would be better off without religion.  (And incidentally, the idea that this is a "central claim" of New Atheism is just another of Mikey's lies.  There is no identifiable group called "New Atheists", much less a doctrine common to that group.)

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Problem With Religionism

Shadow To Light recently posted a You-Tube video made by Jordan Peterson expounding The Problem With Atheism.  The point of Jordan's discussion is that, as Dostoyevski said, without God, anything is possible.  It is a repetition of the mindless religionist assertion that God serves as the ground of morality, and without that grounding, there is no rational basis for moral behavior.  So the logical consequence for atheists is a moral void.

Peterson claims that in the absence of God, it would be perfectly rational to base one's behavior purely on self-interest.  It would make sense to set aside any tendencies to act for the benefit of others, and instead do whatever benefits ourselves, even if that includes murder.  The thing that prevents us from behaving in the most rational self-interested way is what he calls "moral cowardice" - the moral inhibitions that result from being indoctrinated with religious beliefs.  So according to Peterson, without God, and without our religious moral indoctrination, everyone would be acting strictly out of self-interest.  The presumed consequence is that a functional society would be impossible to achieve.  And it is God that saves us from the abyss.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Philosophical Elitism on the March

Alvin Plantinga is widely regarded as a leading Christian apologist and philosopher of religion.  Perhaps his most notable philosophical contribution in the field of epistemology is his so-called "Reformed Epistemology", which holds that belief in God is justified without evidence or argument.  According to RE, belief in God is said to be properly basic, or foundational - the same as the axioms of logic or mathematics are considered to be properly basic beliefs that are universally accepted and require no justification.  Thus, RE constitutes a rational basis for belief in God, despite the utter lack of any objective evidence that would provide justification for an empiricist to believe.  A major difference between this and the properly basic beliefs of an empiricist epistemology is the fact that belief in God can be rationally denied without creating a problem of functionality or coherency in one's worldview.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Only Valid Form of Knowledge

I hope to clarify the the religionists' gross misunderstanding about the epistemology of many atheists.  It is an ideology, they say, called scientism.  This was the subject of my previous post, What is the Real Scientism?, where I attempted to explain the difference between scientism from a religionist's perspective, and from the perspective of those atheists who are accused of adhering to it.  Basically, the religionist insists that scientism implies an attitude that science is the only valid form of knowledge.  But that attitude is denied by non-religionists because it doesn't reflect what real people believe.  I hope I am not belaboring this issue too much, but the religionist skull can be very thick, and difficult to penetrate by any thoughts or ideas that are not consistent with their own beliefs.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

What Is the Real Scientism?

I find myself once again defending a reasonable approach to epistemology in the face of religionism.  Epistemology is defined as:
The theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope, and the distinction between justified belief and opinion. - Oxford Dictionaries 
There are two major schools of thought in epistemology: rationalism and empiricism.  The division between them concerns the sources of our knowledge.  The empiricist position is that knowledge ultimately derives from our experience of the world through the senses, while the rationalist thinks that there are other valid ways of knowing things.  These schools of thought correspond roughly to the distinction between skeptical and theistic belief systems.  The skeptic limits his beliefs about what is justified knowledge to that which is supported by empirical evidence, and the theists allows for other forms of knowledge that are less tangible, such as intuition or innate knowledge, or even divine revelation.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Stepping Out of the Box

Victor Reppert asked an interesting question in a recent post:  How are scientific beliefs caused?  It's interesting because it illustrates how his own thinking is boxed in by his ideological presumptions, including the notion of primacy of mind.  This is the way he puts the question to his readers:
Yet naturalists insist that when minds arose, no new mode of causation was introduced. Matter functioned in the same way, it is just that evolution but it into forms of organization that made it seem as if it had purposes when it really didn't, and this explains the very theorizing by which scientists like Dawkins and philosophers like Mackie reach the conclusion that God does not exist. In the last analysis, you didn't accept atheism because of the evidence, you became and atheist because the configuration of atoms in your brain put you in a certain brain state, and C. S. Lewis became a Christian and a theist for exactly the same reason. If this is true, how can the atheist possibly claim superior rationality? - Reppert
According to Victor, materialism, which is the root of scientific thinking, implies that the world contains no rationality - that everything is just matter in motion, following the natural physical laws of motion and nothing more.  Consequently, according to this belief, there is no rational thought, no conscious mind, no intention.  We are all just meat machines who go about or lives like zombies, simply reacting to the physical forces that propel us, not genuinely thinking, not feeling, and not wanting.  Our brains make us do things, but brains are just a collection of atoms.  Therefore, physical state of one brain causing someone to become a materialist is no more rational than another brain state causing someone to become a theist.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Mikey's Subjective View of Reality

If you talk with religionists about evidence for God, they invariably insist that it is clear and indisputable, if only you are willing to see it.  Atheists, they say, willfully ignore the evidence.  They don't have the "eyes to see", and this is their own fault, because seeing the evidence is simply a matter of choosing to accept the truth of religious belief.  And having done that, all is revealed.  The problem for the skeptic is that this is a catch-22 situation.  The skeptical stance is to withhold belief until sufficient evidence is revealed.  But the evidence isn't visible until you first believe.  Once you become a believer, then evidence of God is everywhere you look.  Ask any theist, and you will hear the same thing.  The evidence is overwhelming, they say, and the skeptic is blind for not seeing it.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Would I Become a Christian?

BK puts forth this question in his latest posting at Christian Cadre: If Christianity were true, would you become a Christian?  He supposes that this is the all-time gotcha question that would force atheists to come clean and confess the truth of the faith, or expose themselves as being dishonest.  BK presents three possible responses that an atheist might offer to this question.   One is to deny Christianity without any explanation.  Another is to deny it with an explanation.  And finally the atheist might accept the truth and say yes.  But I think the question requires more depth of discussion before a simple yes or no answer can be given.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

You Can't Get Ought From Is

David Hume famously described the Is/Ought problem: there is no logical means of deriving moral values from statements of fact.  Well before there was any evolutionary theory of morality, he recognized that our will is a "slave of the passions".  Our motivations do not derive from reason alone.  Through instinct, we make judgments about what is right and wrong.  Through our sense of pride, humility, love and hate, we are motivated, and we experience social approval or disapproval as a result of our actions. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Basics of Non-Belief

In my previous post, I noted that in conversions between Christianity and atheism, the stories people typically tell about their own conversion experience are starkly different.  The convert to religion is often driven by emotion, while de-conversion is often rational in nature.  This may have led some readers to think that my opinion of emotional experiences in general is negative, and that I treat those religious conversions derisively.  I certainly didn't mean to convey that impression.  Nevertheless, as an empiricist, it is my opinion that a belief that derives from a rational thought process based on objective evidence is likely to have better epistemic justification than a belief that stems from emotional experience.