Link blog: ballroom, dancing, theodicy, gender

I assert that God is omnipotent, omniscient, but also all-Evil. How would you disprove this contention? : DebateAChristian
Someone takes Law’s Evil God Challenge over to /r/DebateAChristian, and makes a pretty good showing of it. Amusing for all the Thomists complaining that the poster doesn’t get it, without quite being able to say what it is OP doesn’t get.
(tags: theodicy stephen-law theology philosophy god good evil thomist aquinas)
Peter Loggins – On The Importance Of Learning Other Dances Aside From The Lindy Hop : Atilio Menéndez : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive
Loggins on how to dance at a real jazz club where most people are there to listen, and some history related to the old time ballrooms. Plus some advocacy for learning stuff other than lindy (maybe I should brush up my rusty ballroom skills).
(tags: ballroom dancing etiquette jazz lindy lindy-hop history)
Trevor Copp and Jeff Fox: Ballroom dance that breaks gender roles | TED Talk | TED.com
A couple of ballroom dancers who have developed various ways of switching lead/follow during the dance.
(tags: dance ballroom gender dancing waltz salsa)
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Link blog: theodicy, perception, cycling, driving

A fighter pilot on how to avoid collisions when driving
It’s about saccades and detecting movement.
(tags: safety cycling driving fighter perception brain)
Video & Audio: Is the Universe Designed? – an Atheist’s View
Stephen Law talks at the Faraday Institute. Evil God Challenge gets most of the time, plus a bit of the new X-claim stuff.
(tags: stephen-law theodicy evil god faraday-institute lecture philosophy)
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Link blog: theodicy, stephen-law, epistemology, philosophy

Stephen Law: ‘Skeptical Theism and the Pandora’s Box Question’ – YouTube
Stephen Law did a half hour talk on the sceptical theist response to the Problem of Evil (“you can’t know that God doesn’t have good reasons for allowing some apparently gratuitous evils merely because you can’t think of such reasons”), and how adopting such a response leads to more general scepticism about just about everything (the Pandora’s Box objection, as he calls it).
(tags: theodicy theology religion philosophy problem-of-evil stephen-law epistemology)
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Link blog: politics, belief, faith, atheism

Justin Schieber on Twitter: “Nobody just lacks belief in unicorns. We all believe (for good reason, mind you) that they are fictions. So too is it the case with gods.”
Justin Schieber (an atheist) argues against the claim that “atheism is just a lack of belief”. This seems fair enough: what atheists tend to use the claim for is to say that they don’t have a duty to rebut any random stuff someone comes up with, but in fact, we consider the eixstence of gods and unicorns unlikely based on our background knowledge and the lack of expected evidence (which is evidence of absence), and this is a legitimate belief.
(tags: belief god atheism theism unicorns evidence epistemology)
60 Years On: Academic Atheist Philosophers Then & Now : The Critique
Graham Oppy reviews 60 years of atheist thought in philosophy. Interesting stuff. Is it true to say that people think sceptical theism means that a theist should not be convinced by the evidential problem of evil? I thought that sceptical theism had problems of its own, but I rely on people like John Danaher to digest the literature for me rather than reading journals or anything…
(tags: graham-oppy atheism philosophy theodicy religion)
Faith vs. Facts – NYTimes.com
“a broad group of scholars is beginning to demonstrate that religious belief and factual belief are indeed different kinds of mental creatures. People process evidence differently when they think with a factual mind-set rather than with a religious mind-set. Even what they count as evidence is different. And they are motivated differently, based on what they conclude. On what grounds do scholars make such claims?”
(tags: faith facts psychology religion anthropology scott-atran)
Britain Uncovered survey results: the attitudes and beliefs of Britons in 2015 | Society | The Guardian
The Graun surveyed about 1000 people and weighted the results according to the UK’s demographics. Among other things, the bit about religion was interesting to me: their survey said “A majority of Britons (82%) do not actively practise a religion and a clear majority of the population (61%) agree with that “These days religion is a negative influence in the world rather than a force for good.” Unsurprisingly, those who associate with a religion are less likely to hold this view.”
(tags: survey britain secularism religion belief attitudes politics guardian)
God Doesn’t; We Do: The apologist two-step–McGrew and Marshall on Boghossian
Argues that Norman Geisler and Frank Turek’s “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist” use “faith” in a very similar way to the way Boghossian does, namely “We mean that the less evidence you have for your position, the more faith you need to believe it (and vice versa). Faith covers a gap in knowledge.”
(tags: faith peter-boghossian apologetics religion)
The economists’ manifesto – FT.com
The FT asks a random selection of economists what they’d do if they were PM. A whole lot more sensible than the politicians’ one.
(tags: economics politics FT finance)
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Bad arguments: the alleged atheist Problem of Evil

1755 Lisbon earthquakeThe Problem of Evil is a pretty difficult one for Christians and other theists. One response to it is to say that atheists have a problem too, either because they also must cope in a world with so much evil and suffering in it, or because without a way to “ground” morality, they have no basis to call anything evil. As we’ll see, these are both Bad Arguments.

Bad argument: Atheists must cope psychologically with evil, and this is a problem for them

Stephen Law dealt with the response that atheists must also cope with the evil and suffering in the world (which actually came from an agnostic, not a theist, in the linked example). As Law says, this sort of response relies on shifting the problem we’re talking about to the problem of how to cope psychologically with evil and suffering (which is indeed a problem for both theists and atheists). But this is not the problem that the discussion was originally about, which is that evil and suffering make theism less likely to be true (i.e. they’re evidence against it), but are not evidence against atheism.

Bad argument: Atheists have no grounds to call anything evil and so cannot make an argument from evil

Wintery Knight and Cornelius Hunter are both Christians, and both make the second sort of argument: if there is no God, they say, there is no matter of fact about what is evil, it’s an entirely subjective judgement either of particular individuals or of human societies, and as such cannot be binding on God.

Firstly, both Knight and Hunter just assert that if there is no God, there are no moral facts1. But in fact the philosophical debate about whether there are moral facts is carried on largely without reference to God: there are atheists who say there are, and atheists who say there aren’t, and a lot of debate about just what it means for something to be an objective moral fact anyway. Apologists like to pick an atheist who says there aren’t moral facts and quote them as defining The Atheist View on Moral Facts, as if there were only one.

But suppose for the sake of argument that Knight and Hunter are right, and if there is no God, there are no moral facts. Conventional Christianity still faces a problem of evil as an internal contradiction. Here’s a little argument from evil:

1. If God exists, God is objectively morally perfect.
2. If God exists, it is objectively morally imperfect for someone to permit human suffering which it is in their power to alleviate (see the Parable of the Good Samaritan, for example).
3. There is human suffering which it would be in God’s power to alleviate, were God to exist.

Now, assume for the sake of argument that God exists. From 3, suffering which it is in God’s power to alleviate exists. From 2, God is objectively morally imperfect, but this contradicts what we get from 1. So God does not exist, proof by contradiction.

Any theist worth their salt will attack premise 2 (and probably say that there should be a “without good reason” after the “permit”, and then say that God either has good reasons or that we have no way of knowing that he doesn’t). But my purpose isn’t to present a comprehensive argument from evil, but rather, to point out the shape of the argument: notice that the argument does not rely on a claim that there are in fact objective moral values, only that if God exists, there are, something which Knight and Hunter agree with. In fact, more robust arguments from evil generally rely on putting together statements which theists should accept and showing that they lead to the conclusion that there is no God.

A couple of Knight’s commenters (1, 2) point this out to him (one even explicitly telling him that the Argument from Evil is what’s known as a reductio ad absurdem) but he just doesn’t seem to get it. I hope you do, but let me know if this could be clearer.

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  1. Along with the claim that if there is a God, he’d provide a grounding for moral facts, which seems dodgy, see previous discussion 

Link blog: shooting, philosophy, violence, humour

Dungeons and Discourse revision – help with spells?
Yvain wants suggestions for spell names and effects in his Dungeons and Discourse games. These should be horrible puns on scientific, mathematical or philosophical concepts.There are some good ones in the comments.
(tags: mathematics maths funny humour philosophy magic)
A Jazz Anthology MP3 Choose listen download 36004 tunes jazz artists
Lots of out of copyright jazz stuff.
(tags: lindyhop lindy free mp3 jazz music)
Rationally Speaking: On guns: the facts, the reasons
(tags: shooting law violence guns)
God & Sandy Hook | Talking Philosophy
Mike LaBossiere wrote my blog post for me: he talks about Mike Huckabee’s response and the two ways to take it (either as an assertion that God judged America or as a statement about moral education) and notes that in either case, God doesn’t really come out well.
(tags: huckabee mike-huckabee violence shooting sandy-hook philosophy christian religion theodicy)
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Link blog: theodicy, de-conversion, alvin-plantinga, ex-christian

A Logical Argument from Evil and Perfection
“I began this essay by looking at Plantinga’s God, Freedom, and Evil, where we find a suggested form of a successful argument from evil. I made two adjustments to this form: first, by eschewing talk of the proper elimination of evil in favor of its prevention; and second, by bringing in the notions of good-making and evil-making properties. With these changes, I proposed a valid argument from evil. I then noted that, as the other premises seemed unobjectionable, the weight of the argument fell on premise (3), the proposition that “Every evil-making property (EMP) is such that its instantiation is not entailed by the instantiation of some greater good-making property (GMP).” I offered a subargument for this premise making use of the possibility of God’s existing alone, together with his perfection, to show that from the perspective of perfect-being theism, (3) would be true. But if (3) is accepted by perfect-being theists, then the argument from evil succeeds.”
(tags: free-will alvin-plantinga plantinga argument logical theodicy philosophy evil)
From Bible-Belt Pastor to Atheist Leader – NYTimes.com
Small town pastor turns atheist, gets ostracised by Christians, turns to the Clergy Project and now helps run the Recovering from Religion organisation.
(tags: ex-christian de-conversion clergy atheism religion)
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Link blog: philosophy, epistemology, good, catholic

What Thomas Kuhn Really Thought about Scientific “Truth” | Cross-Check, Scientific American Blog Network
“To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Structure, I’m posting an edited version of my write-up of Kuhn in The End of Science (Addison Wesley, 1996), which draws heavily on my meeting with him. I hope that this profile—which is longer and more critical of Kuhn than “Reluctant Revolutionary,” my May 1991 profile for Scientific American—provides insights into the complicated views of this complicated man.”
(tags: epistemology paradigm science Kuhn philosophy)
On God As The Source Of Being But Not Of Evil | Camels With Hammers
“Very often we atheists are dismissed as ignorant of serious theology and theistic metaphysics or as picking on theologically unsophisticated versions of Christianity because it’s simply an easier target than trying to refute the more profound religious philosophers. In what follows, I will cut to the core of what traditional Roman Catholicism since Thomas Aquinas genuinely thinks is going on philosophically, and not merely metaphorically, when they talk about God’s goodness.”
(tags: theodicy metaethics evil good catholicism catholic philosophy thomist aquinas)
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Link blog: christianity, richard-dawkins, philosophy, dawkins

What is the proper place for religion in Britain’s public life? | World news | The Observer
An exchange between Dawkins and Will Hutton. D: “That doesn’t mean religious people shouldn’t advocate their religion. So long as they are not granted privileged power to do so (which at present they are) of course they should. And the rest of us should be free to argue against them. But of all arguments out there, arguments against religion are almost uniquely branded “intolerant”. When you put a cogent and trenchant argument against the government’s economic policy, nobody would call you “intolerant” of the Tories. But when an atheist does the same against a religion, that’s intolerance. Why the double standard? Do you really want to privilege religious ideas by granting them unique immunity against reasoned argument?”
(tags: uk secularism politics religion dawkins richard-dawkins will-hutton)
The Sins of the Fathers – Richard Dawkins – RichardDawkins.net – RichardDawkins.net
Dawkins sez: “Yesterday evening I was telephoned by a reporter who announced himself as Adam Lusher from the Sunday Telegraph. At the end of a week of successfully rattling cages, I was ready for yet another smear or diversionary tactic of some kind, but in my wildest dreams I couldn’t have imagined the surreal form this one was to take. I obviously can’t repeat what was said word-for-word (my poor recall of long strings of words has this week been highly advertised), and I may get the order of the points wrong, but this is approximately how the conversation went.” Lusher says Dawkins’s ancestors owned slaves and wonders whether D will make reparations. Bizarre and desperate.
(tags: adam-lusher slavery dawkins richard-dawkins journalism newspapers telegraph)
Stephen Law vs. William Lane Craig Debate: Argument map » » The Polemical MedicThe Polemical Medic
“there’s lots of debate over who won the Law/Craig debate. Instead of joining that, I though I’d do something niftier: I’ve mapped the whole of the debate in argument form, to give a more intuitive way of seeing how all the arguments and objections interact”. This is excellent stuff.
(tags: religion theodicy philosophy christianity atheism debate william-lane-craig stephen-law)
Evangelism, disbelief, and being ‘without excuse’ » » The Polemical MedicThe Polemical Medic
“Christians who indulge in evangelism and apologetics often hold to a thesis of disbelief as epistemic pathology – that disbelief is the result of some culpable error of judgment. Such an attitude is a poor fit for the facts and counter productive to the cause of evangelism. Ironically, the urge of these people to pathologize disagreement is diagnostic of their own epistemic pathology.” I’ve mentioned this attitude (inspired by Romans 1) before: Thrasymachus neatly dissects it.
(tags: philosophy epistemology christianity religion apologetics evangelicalism evangelism)
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Comments elsewhere on theodicy, de-conversion, sex and fat

I’ve been commenting in other places. You might be interested in where:

The Evil God Challenge

Stephen Law’s Evil God Challenge is a new take on the problem of evil. The challenge is to ask theists why it’s more reasonable to believe that there’s a good God (accepting the standard theodicies for the problem of evil) than it is to believe there’s an evil God (accepting flipped theodicies, for example, that evil God created us with free will so that we could freely choose to do evil).

Law has been dealing with responses to this challenge ever since his debate with William Lane Craig. On his blog, he mentions a conversation with Glenn Peoples. That blog entry attracted a few comments, so I joined in.

What does good mean?

There’s been a lot of chat about just what Law means by good or evil, how this is “grounded” and so on, as theists often want to say you cannot have meaningful morality if there’s no God (there’s no reason to suppose this is true, as far as I can tell, but it’s psychologically appealing even to atheists). Law says he’s using the terms in a “pre-theoretic” sense (I suspect because he doesn’t want the whole thing to turn into an argument about meta-ethics). Interestingly, I found a quote from Craig which says that theists shouldn’t argue that atheists can’t meaningfully use moral vocabulary, so I commented on that: it seems perfectly reasonable to use terms like (morally) good in the common sense way, or to point to cases like gratuitous suffering and call those evil (in fact, Law says he can make his challenge about suffering rather then morality: the challenge is then why it’s reasonable to believe there’s a God who doesn’t want us to suffer unnecessarily, I guess).

Thomist God

I’ve also been responding to some comments by someone called BenYachov. He’s been arguing that if you believe in the God of Thomas Aquinas (which apparently is the official God of the Catholic church), Law’s challenge won’t faze you. I was trying to tease out why. BenYachov claims that God “grounds” moral goodness but isn’t himself a moral agent (a moral agent being something which is capable of acting on moral considerations). As Thomist God is not a moral agent, he cannot be said to be morally good or morally evil. Nevertheless, he is still Good in some sense related to “grounding” all goods and being perfect (the Thomists seem to like to use lots of Capital Letters for Significant Concepts).

I wondered at this Thomist God’s “goodness” if it means nothing like moral goodness. I went on to say that this God is morally alien. He’s a bit like what happens when weird aliens build an artificial intelligence. I was also still not sure what it means for Thomist God to “ground” moral goodness as he’s not morally good, only Good: as I’ve said before, the word “ground” should be a red flag in debates like these, as it often means the other person is skating over something for which they don’t really have a good explanation. Finally, I responded to another comment of BenYachov’s, by saying that there’s no reason to worship something because it created you or because it’s mysterious.

I get the impression that there’s a lot of work being done by Capital Letter Concepts in BenYachov’s world, and a lot of trading on different meanings of the world “good”. There’s also the weird idea that these meanings have something in common and that there’s an attribute called “Goodness” which somehow incorporates them all. This seems a bit like what Jaynes calls the Mind Projection Fallacy, the idea that every property we perceive in something is out there in the world.

Problem page

Over on Metafilter, there’s a section where people can ask questions. Someone recently said they’d been talking to their father-in-law about religion and philosophy and ended up accidentally de-converting him from Christianity. Now the mother-in-law is trying to cut her daughter and son-in-law off. I posted a response trying to explain what the in-laws might be thinking, and suggesting that the best way back with the mother-in-law might be to talk about seeking truth.

Brains, sex, fat

livredor posted about brain sex differences and fat acceptance. I commented: I think the popularisation of research into neuroscience and evolutionary psychology leads to unscientific statements (see also this Less Wrong article about one way to misunderstand it), but there’s also a set of feminists who don’t believe in innate brain differences between men and women because it contradicts their ideology, making them equivalent to creationists. In the case of fat acceptance, I was also a bit suspicious of activist claims that the medical establishment is wrong about fat being unhealthy being linked with the desire to see fat people treated more kindly. I owe livredor some replies there.

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