Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Higher Thinking, Debate & Some "Second-Tier" Thinking

Take note that in the response to the theist you see straw-man after straw man raised towards the theist: young earth creationism, what "evidence" do you have (e.g., only evidence accepted is dialectical materialism, or, philosophical naturalist types of evidence -- talked about a bit below), theological statements while admitting not knowing theology, etc.

From a debate I had years ago (portion of larger post linked): "'Evidence' 'Science' 'Proof'"
The question then is: What evidence do you need? Or better yet: What kind of evidence? Can Science help? Lets see… the scientific method merely shows that if miracles did occur in the past, that science (as currently defined) could not prove, or disprove, their occurrence. You cannot find out what Napoleon did at the battle of Austerlitz by asking him to come and fight it again in a laboratory with the same combatants, the same terrain, the same weather, and in the same age. You have to go to the records. We have not, in fact, proved that science excludes miracles: we have only proved that the question of miracles, like the innumerable other questions [of history], excludes laboratory treatment. And Christianity claims to be a historical belief. The resurrection of Jesus was an historical event, one that cannot be repeated in the laboratory. So how, then, do we deal with the historic claims of Christianity? Like any other historical event, we go to the records.
"What are the distinctive sources for our beliefs about the past? Most of the beliefs we have about the past come to us by the testimony of other people. I wasn’t present at the signing of the Declaration of Independence. I didn’t see my father fight in the [S]econd [W]orld [W]ar. I have been told about these events by sources that I take to be reliable. The testimony of others is generally the main source of our beliefs about the past…. So all our beliefs about the past depend on testimony, or memory, or both.” (Philosophy for Dummies, by Tom Morris, pp. 57-58)
“In advanced societies specialization in the gathering and production of knowledge and its wider dissemination through spoken and written testimony is a fundamental socio-epistemic fact, and a very large part of each persons body of knowledge and belief stems from testimony.” (The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, edited by Robert Audi[2nd ed.], p. 909)
“But it is clear that most of what any given individual knows comes from others; palpably with knowledge of history, geography, or science, more subtly with knowledge about every day facts such as when we were born..” (The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, edited by Ted Honderich, p. 869)
So when someone asks, “I haven't seen a single shred of evidence for the existence of God,” is he defining what evidence is and how we get knowledge about past events, and then going to the sources to see if they are credible or not?

From my review of a 2-hour radio interview with William Lobdell and his book Losing My Religion: How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America-and Found Unexpected Peace (portion of larger post linked): "Hugh Hewitt Interviews Evangelical Turned Atheist, William Lobdell, for 2-Hours"

Robots and Cosmic Puppetry: The Scientific Challenge to Freedom
Since at least the time of Sir Isaac Newton, scientists and philosophers impressed by the march of science have offered a picture of human behavior that is not promising for a belief in freedom. All nature is viewed by them as one huge mechanism, with human beings serving as just parts of that giant machine. On this view, we live and think in accordance with the same laws and causes that move all other physical components of the universal mechanism.
According to these thinkers, everything that happens in nature has a cause. Suppose then that an event occurs, which, in context, is clearly a human action of the sort that we would normally call free. As an occurrence in this universe, it has a cause. But then that cause, in turn, has a cause. And that cause in turn has a cause, and so on, and so on [remember, reductionism].
“Everything is determined, the beginning as well as the end, by forces over which we have no control. It is determined for the insect as well as for the star. Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust, we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible player” ~ Albert Einstein.
As a result of this scientific world view, we get the following picture:
Natural conditions outside our control…
Inner bodily and brain states,
which cause
mental and physical actions
But if this is true, then you are, ultimately, just a conduit or pipeline for chains of natural causation that reach far back into the past before your birth and continue far forward into the future after your death. You are not an originating cause of anything [this includes brain activity of all degrees, that is, love, pain, etc.). Nothing you ever do is due to your choices or thoughts alone. You are a puppet of nature. You are no more than a robot programmed by an unfeeling cosmos.
Psychologists talk about heredity and environment as responsible for everything you do. But then if they are, you aren’t. Does it follow that you can then do as you please, irresponsibly? Not at all. It only follows that you will do as nature and nurture please. But then, nature on this picture turns out to be just an illusory veil over a heartless, uncaring nature. You have what nature gives you. Nothing more, nothing less.
Where is human freedom in this picture? It doesn’t exist. It is one of our chief illusions. The natural belief in free will is just a monstrous falsehood. But we should not feel bad about holding on to this illusion until science corrects us. We can’t have helped it.
This reasoning is called The Challenge of Scientific Determinism. According to determinists, we are determined in every respect to do everything that we ever do.
This again is a serious challenge to human freedom. It is the reason that the early scientist Pierre Laplace (1749-1827) once said that if you could give a super-genius a total description of the universe at any given point in time, that being would be able to predict with certainty everything that would ever happen in the future relative to that moment, and retrodict with certainty anything that had ever happened in any moment before that described state. Nature, he believed, was that perfect machine. And we human beings were just cogs in the machine, deluded in our beliefs that we are free.
(Philosophy for Dummies, 133-134)
J.P Moreland agrees with this summation that there would be no standard to judge whether a particular position about reality were true if we are the products of a completely naturalistic, chance, chain of atoms bouncing off one another happened. To be clear, if atheistic origins of the universe were true, then one liking chocolate ice cream over vanilla would be just as true as someone choosing atheism over theism:
Mind/Body Physicalism Refuted
A number of philosophers have argued that physicalism must be false because it implies determinism and determinism is self-refuting. Speaking of the determinist, J. R. Lucas says:
If what he says is true, he says it merely as the result of his heredity and environment, and nothing else. He does not hold his determinist views because they are true, but because he has such-and-such stimuli; that is, not because the structure of the structure of the universe is such-and-such but only because the configuration of only part of the universe, together with the structure of the determinist’s brain, is such as to produce that result…. Determinism, therefore, cannot be true, because if it was, we should not take the determinists’ arguments as being really arguments [say, whether or not homosexuality is a right or not] as being really arguments, but as being only conditioned reflexes. Their statements should not be regarded as really claiming to be true, but only as seeking to cause us to respond in some way desired by them. (Freedom of the Will, by John Lucas)
H. P. Owen states that:
Determinism is self-stultifying. If my mental processes are totally determined, I am totally determined either to accept or to reject determinism. But if the sole reason for my believing or not believing X is that I am causally determined to believe it I have no ground for holding that my judgment is true or false. (Christian Theism, p. 118)
… if one claims to know that physicalism is true, or to embrace it for good reasons, if one claims that it is a rational position which should be chosen on the basis of evidence [as one does when they reject theism], then this claim is self-refuting. This is so because physicallism seems to deny the possibility of rationality. To see this, let us examine the necessary preconditions which must hold if there is to be such a thing as rationality and show how physicalism denies these preconditions.
At least five factors must obtain if there are to be genuine rational agents who can accurately reflect on the world. First, minds must have internationality; they must be capable of having thoughts about or of the world. Acts of inference are “insights into” or “knowings of” something other than themselves.
Second, reasons, propositions, thoughts, laws of logic and evidence, and truth must exist and be capable of being instanced in people’s minds and influencing their thought processes. This fact is hard to reconcile with physicallism. To see this, consider the field of ethics. Morality prescribes what we ought to do (prescriptive); it does not merely describe what is in fact done (descriptive). Objective morality makes sense if real moral laws or oughts exist and if normative, moral properties like rightness, goodness, worth, and dignity exist in acts (the act of honoring one’s parents) and things (persons and animals have worth) [this all applies to the debate over homosexuality]. If physicalism is true as a worldview, there are no moral properties or full-blooded oughts. Physical states just are, and one physical state causes or fails to cause another physical state. A physical state does not morally prescribe that another physical ought to be. If physicalism is true, oughts are not real moral obligations telling us what one should do to be in conformity with the moral universe. Rather, “ought” serves as a mere guide for reaching a socially acceptable or psychologically desired goal (e.g., “if one wants to have pleasure and avoid pain, then one ‘ought’ to tell the truth”). Moral imperatives become grounded in subjective preferences on the same level as a preference for Burger King over McDonald’s….
(Scaling the Secular City: A Defense of Christianity, by J. P. Moreland, 90-92)
The atheist has no way ultimately to point out that an act that society currently considers taboo, such as rape, is morally wrong. The atheist, unlike the theist, would not be able to say that rape is morally wrong at all times and places in the entire history of the known universe. Again, all that can be said is that at this point in our evolutionary history and culture it is currently outlawed in most societies by the majority of peoples. This majority can change thus making an act morally acceptable that is currently outlawed, or immoral. Back to the chemical, or biological basis for rape though, a couple of books that deal with this specifically have addressed this issue by philosophical naturalists. For example, in this exerpt from a larger paper I did for a class on Natural Law and homosexuality, I point out that without creation ex nihilo, rape is not morally wrong in the ultimate sense:
Idolatrous Tools
Idolatry is referenced in connection with human sexuality by Anthony Hoekema who points out that while “primitive man use to make idols out of wood and stone, modern man, seeking something to worship, makes idols of a more subtle type: himself, human society, the state, money, fame.”[1] Thusly, an idol can be fallen man using the gift of relationships as a tool to manipulate others for his or her selfish ends,[2] idolizing pleasure by making it an end-to-a-means, so to speak. In doing so, the person seeking gratification (whether emotional or physical) utilizes or instumentalizes another in order to worship self-gratification. This concept is seen in the slang term “tool”[3] used by today’s generation either to reference a man’s genitalia or to reference another person.[4]
The reader by now should have clearly established in his mind that homosexuality rejects the created order and designs its own contrary vision.[5] Moreover, part of this vision is an atheistic, naturalistic (almost Epicurean[6]) rejection of Creation ex-nihilo.[7] How does the “carnal” person deal with the unnatural order of the homosexual lifestyle? Since it is a reality it is incorporated into their epistemological system of thought or worldview.[8] Henry Morris points out that the materialist worldview looks at homosexuality as nature’s way of controlling population numbers as well as a tension lowering device.[9] Lest one think this line of thinking is insane, that is: sexual acts are something from our evolutionary past and advantageous;[10] rape is said to not be a pathology but an evolutionary adaptation – a strategy for maximizing reproductive success.[11] How do the naturalist, those who have rejected the created order and the moral laws of nature, view such an instrumentalizing of the human body for the end-result of idolatrous worshiping of pleasure?
Liberal sexual morality, based in an ancient epicurean view of the nature of man that “denies that marriage is inherently heterosexual necessarily supposes that the value of sex must be instrumental” in order to pleasure oneself, which makes such an act a tool in the hand of a person’s desires, or, an “end-in-itself.” In other words, the traditional understanding of marriage rejects the view that sees the ultimate point or value of sex in marriage as an instrument to attain either affection or sexual pleasure, which is what the epicurean is left with. Sex, in the homosexual context, then, is the instrumentalization of the body.[12]
Ethical Evil?
The first concept that one must understand is that these authors do not view nature alone as imposing a moral “oughtness” into the situation of survival of the fittest. They view rape, for instance, in its historical evolutionary context as neither right nor wrong ethically.[13] Rape, is neither moral nor immoral vis-à-vis evolutionary lines of thought, even if ingrained in us from our evolutionary paths of survival.[14] Did you catch that? Even if a rape occurs today, it is neither moral nor immoral, it is merely currently taboo.[15] The biological, amoral, justification of rape is made often times as a survival mechanism bringing up the net “survival status” of a species, usually fraught with examples of homosexual worms, lesbian seagulls, and the like.[16]
This materialistic view of nature will give way to there being no difference in the emerging ethic between married couples, homosexual couples, or couples in a temporary sexual relationship. Some go as far to say - rightly so - that with the acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle follows shortly thereafter the legalization of polyamorous relationships,[17] which is already considered as a viable option by many in Sweden for instance.[18] After polyamory is legal – about the only thing left is for the Peter Singer’s (professor at Princeton’s Center for Human Values) of the world to argue for “cross species” sex acts.[19] Columnist George Will aptly calls this type of legislation “the moral equality of appetites.”[20]

According to atheistic evolution, these appetites are driven by some chain of events that go back through history to the big bang. Everything is the way it is because of this chain of chance events that resulted in our environments and firing of neurons and their chemical reactions in our brain... making us believe and do what we believe and do. It is really fascism, or so called:
“Everything I have said and done in these last years is relativism by intuition…. If relativism signifies contempt for fixed categories and men who claim to be bearers of an objective, immortal truth… then there is nothing more relativistic than fascistic attitudes and activity…. From the fact that all ideologies are of equal value, that all ideologies are mere fictions, the modern relativist infers that everybody has the right to create for himself his own ideology and to attempt to enforce it with all the energy of which he is capable.”
(Mussolini, Diuturna pp. 374-77, quoted in A Refutation of Moral Relativism: Interviews with an Absolutist [Ignatius Press; 1999], by Peter Kreeft, p. 18.)
So since all acts are of equal value in the struggle for survival, the acts that only temporarily determine the highest possible survival of the species at that moment in evolutionary progress/history is the most beneficial... which could be interpreted as being the most “moral” in evolutionary vernacular. Therefore, atheists (which include Lobdell) have no metaphysical basis to say that rape, or the killing of innocent people by religious persons, and similar actions like unjust wars by Marxist revolutionaries, are morally wrong in a meaningful way. They are merely pointing out that they personally disagree with the action they are describing. Arguing, then about the immorality of acts committed by the religious (and I would contend, non-religious peoples) would be just as powerful morally if the same person argued with a friend about the superiority of chocolate ice-cream over that of vanilla ice-cream.