2012

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)

#322 & #323 “My friend group has a case of the Creepy Dude. How do we clear that up?” « CaptainAwkward.com
What to do about That Guy (discusses stuff That Guy does). Via Andrewducker.
(tags: social relationships sex advice assault sexism feminism rape)
The Worst Argument In The World
which is: “If we can apply an emotionally charged word to something, we must judge it exactly the same as a typical instance of that emotionally charged word.” Yvain is just on fire lately: read his LJ and LessWrong posts.
(tags: equivocation worst philosophy argument rhetoric yvain)
House Hacks – Imgur
Clever household tips (as image macros) Via Alex at Lindy.
(tags: hacks tips cleaning housework house lifehack)

30 open questions in physics and astronomy « Locklin on science
(tags: questions astronomy physics science)
Going Soul-o: one young atheist’s week at Christian camp (Day One)
Gay atheist Alex Gabriel went to Soul Survivor, a charismatic Christian festival, and blogged about it (the link is to part one of the series). I went in about 1998, shit was so crazy (to my conservative evangelical eyes) but bits of it were inspirational, and indeed, Alex does find some good things to say about it, but mostly worries about people converting for the wrong reasons (i.e. no reasons at all).
(tags: festival conversion alex gabriel charismatic christianity soul-survivor soul survivor)
Philosophy Bro
Excellent summaries of philosophical works in bro-speak, plus readers’ questions answered. Fist-bump!
(tags: aristotle descartes religion morality kant david hume bro funny philosophy)

One True Morality
Muflax attempts to come up with a classification for morality, as clearly no-one knows what we mean by “objective” or “subjective” in this context.
(tags: subjective objective muflax philosophy metaethics morality)
Why yes, I have spent the past few days exploring the Catholic blogosphere
“Atheists say that it’s not necessary to wear green clothing on Saturdays. And I see where they’re coming from. Wouldn’t it be really convenient to wake up on Saturday and not have to worry about digging through your dresser, looking for your one pair of good green pants? Wouldn’t it make life easier? … But here’s the secret that modern society has forgotten: there’s more to life than just being comfortable. True, it would be easy not to wear green clothing on Saturday.” A nice satire of a certain type of religious blogger.
(tags: yvain satire funny religion catholic)

Prometheus (2012) – Calvinball Mythology and the Void of Meaning « Ruthless Culture
Prometheus was crap because it was trying to be like real life where stuff just happens, rather than like a story. Perhaps.
(tags: sci-fi sf science-fiction narrative calvinball metanarrative prometheus entertainment myth film)
Unspeakable Conversations – New York Times
“He insists he doesn’t want to kill me. He simply thinks it would have been better, all things considered, to have given my parents the option of killing the baby I once was, and to let other parents kill similar babies as they come along and thereby avoid the suffering that comes with lives like mine and satisfy the reasonable preferences of parents for a different kind of child.” A disability rights lawyer meets Peter Singer.
(tags: infanticide euthanasia singer peter-singer ethics philosophy utilitarianism disability)

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)

Bring on the crocoducks

Remember Ray Comfort, of Crocoduck fame? Tony Miano, Comfort’s vicar on Earth, made a blog posting in which he argued that the Clergy Project (which tries to help ministers of religion who’ve become closet atheists) was doing the church a favour by ridding it of people who were never Christians in the first place. He also mentioned that atheists know there’s a God really (see previous discussion).

This attracted the attention of the Dawkins massive, mainly because they thought it was written by their arch-enemy Comfort himself, so it got quite a few comments. There was some good stuff. An ex-Christian called The Skeptical Magician had a go at beating the fundies at their own game, arguing from the Bible that he was a real Christian (someone who believes Jesus was the Son of God who rose from the dead) who changed his mind. I stuck my oar in, pointing out that if Miano is right, we can’t know someone’s a Christian until they die. Is Tony Miano a Christian? Well, we’ll have to wait and see, by his definition.

Had the Magician merely said that he was a believer, the first responses from Christians would have been “it’s easy to say you’re a believer, but that doesn’t make you one”. So he gave examples of doing things he would likely do only if he were truly a believer (faith without deeds being dead, as James tells us). He got replies telling him that his faith had been all about “doing” rather than “believing”, therefore his actions were evidence against him being a believer. This is cheating of the “heads I win/tails you lose” sort, as any Bayesian could tell you.

Some presuppositionalists commented, including my old mate the Internet-famous Sye Ten Bruggencate, who invented the Proof That God Exists (Danger! Atheists, don’t click that link!) Presuppositionalists start out sounding as if they might be fun, in a “late night conversation with philosophy students” sort of way: they like to ask for “accounts” of stuff that most people take, if not as a brute fact, then as a reasonable starting point (the evidence of our senses, memory, logic, belief in the sun rising tomorrow and so on). This might lead to an interesting philosophical discussion, but they spoil it all by applying radical scepticism to all views other than their own, which is cheating. If you read their literature, the reason for this is that they’re not interested in a discussion where both parties might modify their views, they just want to force their opponent “below the line of despair” so they’ll turn to Christianity. It’s fun to ask what an “account” would have to look like to satisfy them, and how they “account” for God’s unchangeable nature. They don’t answer, of course, but the point of intervening in such discussions is to defend the philosophically naive marks who’ve never run into Hume and Descartes before, not to change the presuppers’ minds.

But! I’ve never been one of them

Leah Libresco, an atheist blogger who originally started her Unequally Yoked blog when she was going out with Catholic, announced she’d converted to Catholicism because she’d realised that Morality is a Person who loves her. Camels with Hammers did a good summary of ways atheists responded, noting that the best response was probably to point out that she seemed to have missed a few steps in her argument, rather than accusing her of being off her medication.

squid314 wondered about local maximas in belief-space (which is mathematician speak for wondering whether the steps he’d have to take to get Catholicism individually made his new view seem less likely than before, even if once you get there Catholicism is actually more likely than the Official Bayesian Conspiracy Worldview). He noted that he knew quite a few clever people who’d become Catholic, so maybe it was worth looking into. He reported back on his investigation of the Catholic blogsphere in an amusing fashion, which makes me think he’s safe, for now.

A friend of Libresco’s started a thread on Less Wrong’s discussion board on how to thwart the conversion. Someone there was prepared to predict that the conversion won’t stick, as it’s based on metaphysics rather than the unpleasant reality of the Catholic church (Libresco is already wobbling a bit on the issue of homosexuality). We’ll see: I don’t know her well enough to want to bet on it.

I made a few comments on Libresco’s blog: on the Euthyphro Dilemma (ended up going in circles as usual, gave up); pointing out that the Catholic orthodoxy is that God is not morally good (he’s ontologically good, see Camels with Hammers again), making him a poor choice for a virtue ethicist like Leah; and dealing with the usual bad arguments about science.