What Good Is Philosophy? (2 of 2)

Philosophy ScienceIn my last post, I summarized some of the useless fruits of the pop philosophy used by Christian apologists like William Lane Craig. Now, let’s look at issue from the other side. Let’s find the good within philosophy.

Something nice to say about philosophy

Philosophy contains important stuff. The laws of logic and the understanding of logical fallacies fall under philosophy, as does the study of ethics. The study of philosophy can be great training.

Alvin Plantinga argued that philosophy is relevant at the frontier of science when he said that philosophy is just thinking hard about something. By that definition, Werner Heisenberg (a physicist) was doing philosophy when he came up with his uncertainty principle, Kurt Gödel (a mathematician) was doing philosophy when he discovered his incompleteness theorems, and Alan Turing (a computer scientist) was doing philosophy when he developed the Turing Test. Maybe string theory or ideas on the multiverse are philosophy.

A broad definition of philosophy doesn’t bother me, but note that all these “philosophers” were first scientists or mathematicians. That’s why they were able to make their contributions. While a scientist can put on a philosopher’s hat and do great work, the reverse is not true. A philosopher isn’t qualified to contribute in science or math. This was the problem outlined in the previous post with philosopher William Lane Craig’s ill-advised dabblings in science.

I get annoyed with philosophers putting on an imaginary lab coat and playing scientist like a child plays house. Craig imagines himself strutting into a meeting of befuddled scientists and saying with a chuckle, “Okay, fellas, the Christian philosophers can take it from here” and seeing them breathe a sigh of relief that the cavalry has come to save them from their intellectual dilemma. He imagines that he has something to offer on questions that his discipline couldn’t even formulate.

In perhaps the height of hubris, Craig the non-scientist permits himself to pick and choose the areas of science that are valid. He likes the idea of a beginning to the universe, so the Big Bang is A-OK with him. But complexity in life without the guiding hand of God doesn’t sit so well, so he rejects evolution.

I pick on William Lane Craig here just because he’s a well-known example. Other Christian apologists take similar positions.

Contributions in science vs. philosophy

Lots of sites have Top Ten lists of scientific discoveries for 2013 (Scientific American, Science, HuffPo, Discover, and more). 2012 was a tough act to follow, with the Higgs boson, Curiosity rover on Mars, and hundreds of new exoplanets discovered, but 2013 didn’t disappoint. We found new clues that Mars was once habitable, the Voyager 1 spacecraft left the solar system, DNA was sequenced from 700,000 year old animal and 100,000 year old human remains, a meteor exploded over Russia, new gene therapies were found, life was found in a pristine Antarctic lake, and Jupiter’s Ganymede was mapped.

I couldn’t find a list of the Top Ten philosophical breakthroughs for 2013.

Philosophy as a caltrop

While thoughtless pop philosophy is one problem, weighty arguments such as the Transcendental Argument or the Ontological Argument are at the other end of the scale. This is philosophy as a caltrop.

A caltrop is a defensive weapon used when the opponent is getting too close for comfort. These and other complicated philosophical arguments can be handy when the expected evidence for God isn’t there. You want to discard the God hypothesis? Hold on—first, you must respond to this ponderous argument. And there are more behind it. These arguments are effective because they’re confusing, not because they’re correct.

What does it say that such arguments are necessary? If you want to see what keeps the planet warm, go outside on a sunny day and look up. A god who is eager to have a relationship with us and is so much more powerful and important than the sun should be at least as obvious. Complicated philosophical arguments simply try to paper over the glaring fact that evidence for God is negligible and that we have no justification for belief.

Philosophy is useful in the hands of scientists. But philosophers? What have they done for me lately?

Religion was our first try at philosophy,
it was our first try at epistemology.
It’s what we came up with when we didn’t know
we lived on a round planet circling the sun.
— Christopher Hitchens

Philosophers do not agree about anything to speak of.
— Peter van Inwagen

Photo credit: Emily Jane Morgan

About Bob Seidensticker
  • Jason

    Bob, I think your views are more balanced now that I see this post, but I still think you somewhat artificially put science and philosophy at odds. I think part of the complication is that philosophy is now just one of many disciplines. But remember that philosophy was originally just the pursuit of wisdom and simply a way of talking about how to put it all together. Remember that Aristotle was a botonist, a psychologist, etc. Logic, physics, and ethics were the standard divisions of philosophy in the ancient world.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I’m arguing that science and philosophers are at odds.

      • Jason

        Then I guess you should retitle your post to “What Good are Philosophers” and stop criticizing philosophy for not having enough “breakthroughs” in the last year.

        • MNb

          Yes – again my only gripe is with the title, not so much with the content.
          One slight addition though: “What Good are Philosophers of Religion” because no way Craig is representative for eg Pigliucci.

      • MNb

        Some are. A lot not.
        My take is different. Clashes like Krauss vs. Pigliucci as Bill linked to above are necessary if we want to find out what modern science is exactly doing and saying and what the consequences are.

  • MNb

    “Werner Heisenberg (a physicist) was doing philosophy when he came up with his uncertainty principle.”
    That’s imprecise. The uncertainty principle is mathematically derived. The interpretation of the inequality is philosophy indeed. The various interpretations of quantum mechanics show where physics and philosophy meet.

    Note that you still focus on philosophers on religion and apologists. Once again: that’s OK with me, but it’s not OK to make it look like as if they are representative for the entire field. It makes the question at the end of your article meaningless.

    But even if we restrict ourselves to philosophy of religion your final question can be answered: Herman Philipse in God in the Age of Science has provided the most systemetical and thorough debunking of apologetics ever. For all atheists, so also for you. The result is a solid philosophical foundation of atheism.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I guess we’re on the same page that the knuckleheads are doing no one any good, but you’re implying that there are philosophers who do add to science. Or are you simply saying (more broadly) that philosophers do add value?

      Just to be contrary (and I haven’t read Philipse), if he’s attacked philosophical arguments for Christianity or against atheism, bravo. But were those arguments of much merit to begin with? Take the Ontological Argument–does this really leave non-philosopher atheists with no reply, demanding that philosophers come to our rescue?

      • MNb

        “add value?”
        Yes.

        “But were those arguments of much merit to begin with?”
        How can we find out if nobody investigates them, ie does some philosophy?
        You neglect my last point:

        “a solid philosophical foundation of atheism”
        Well, of course you can shrug this off like many people shrug off what modern physicists are doing. They don’t need to understand even a bit of Relativity to enjoy their GPS.
        But I like my views founded, just as I like Euclidean geometry founded on just a few axioms. Then philosophy adds value indeed.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          How can we find out if nobody investigates them, ie does some philosophy?

          Doing philosophy sounds great. I’m simply saying that you don’t have to be a philosopher to do it, and that problems can arise when philosophers do science.

          I like my views founded, just as I like Euclidean geometry founded on just a few axioms. Then philosophy adds value indeed.

          The mathematician gives us the axioms and moves on, and that works for me. I’m not sure what’s missing. Seems to me that the philosopher would say, “Wait a minute—why those axioms and not others? And what do the axioms rest on?” and so on, which strikes me as mental masturbation.

        • MNb

          “I’m simply saying that you don’t have to be a philosopher to do it, and that problems can arise when philosophers do science.”
          That’s something we can agree on, but it doesn’t show from your article (which is great at debunking WLC, but not much more). Thanks for clarification.

          “why those axioms and not others?”
          That’s actually a good question. See, people (including scientists, philosophers and apologists) have the tendency to hide those assumptions in muddled but interesting sounding language to give their theories some false invulnerability.

          “And what do the axioms rest on?”
          That question strikes me as mental masturbation as well. That’s why they are axioms – rationally they don’t rest on anything. When making claims about our material reality we at least have empirical data.
          Take for example ethics. I’d like to have it consistent and coherent (not that I’ve succeeded). To do so I need to know on which assumptions my ethics rest. Here they are: the vast majority of mankind prefers to be happy; being happy is better than being unhappy. Obviously the first is an Argumentum ad Populum and the combination an Is/Ought Fallacy. This means here there is no reason to accept them but for intuition like yours.
          Imo formulating such assumptions is a matter of intellectual integrity.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          That’s something we can agree on, but it doesn’t show from your article

          That’s why I ended with “What have philosophers done for me lately?”

          people (including scientists, philosophers and apologists) have the tendency to hide those assumptions in muddled but interesting sounding language to give their theories some false invulnerability.

          I find that language off-putting rather than interesting.

          You might like “Academic Obfuscations: The Psychological Attraction of Postmodern Nonsense” by Jim Davies. It mentions the 1996 experiment by Alan Sokal, “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity.” If you haven’t read about that, you might find it an interesting story.

          Take for example ethics. I’d like to have it consistent and coherent (not that I’ve succeeded).

          It might also be nice to have it mindlessly algorithmic, but (for better or worse) it can be difficult.

          the vast majority of mankind prefers to be happy; being happy is better than being unhappy.

          Nice axioms. They work for me.

          Obviously the first is an Argumentum ad Populum and the combination an Is/Ought Fallacy. This means here there is no reason to accept them but for intuition like yours.

          Just to be contrary, I’ll disagree. The first would be a fallacy if we added, “… so therefore, that’s objectively/absolutely true.” We are simply taking a poll and doing our best to give people what they want. We can study the results of that attitude, and I think we’d find that mostly good things come from that. Conclusion: good policy to follow.

          Part 2: that would also be a fallacy if we also added objective/absolute language. But we don’t.

        • MNb

          Ah – grammatical error. In Dutch adverb and adjective are the sdame. I meant “interestingly sounding”, which is Dutch for “lots of fancy words, suggest deepity, but in the end without content”.

          Oh yeah, I know the Sokal story. Did you know Flemish atheist philosopher Marcel Boudry pulled one off at the Free University, Amsterdam? The theologians there were not amused.

          http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2012/09/25/a-sokal-style-hoax-by-an-anti-religious-philosopher-2/

          “Just to be contrary…”
          You have a point.

  • GCBill

    Actually, scientists aren’t necessarily competent philosophers. (Cases in point: Hawking and Krauss.) Even Feynman, a brilliant physicist, said naive things about philosophy. The latter I can forgive for reacting against the excess of postmodernism, the former two, not so much.

    INB4 “Science works!” (Oh, you’ve adopted a pragmatic theory of truth over the more common and intuitive correspondence model? Tell me more about how irrelevant philosophy is to what you’re doing.)

    • MNb

      Who is INB4?

      • Greg G.

        I Googled it. It’s an internet slang shortcut for “in before” and refers to some previous conversation where the following was stated. AIUI, anyway.

    • Greg G.

      INB4 “Science works!” (Oh, you’ve adopted a pragmatic theory of truth over the more common and intuitive correspondence model? Tell me more about how irrelevant philosophy is to what you’re doing.)

      A system of truth could be self-justified but then it is circular and any correspondence to reality that we live in is coincidental or contrived. “Science works!” reflects that it is justified solely by its correspondence to the reality we experience. It’s usefulness makes it worth pursuing. The usefulness is just one of many observations of its correspondence to reality.

      • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

        “Science works!” reflects that it is justified solely by its
        correspondence to the reality we experience. It’s usefulness makes it worth pursuing. The usefulness is just one of many observations of its correspondence to reality.

        You’re mixing up the two approaches. There’s a legitimate distinction to be made between the usefulness of scientific knowledge (or, for that matter, ethical reasoning) and its correspondence to reality.

        • Greg G.

          Obviously I didn’t make myself clear. I was arguing for that distinction. GCBill is equivocating “science works” with pragmatics as defined in the link he provides.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          Yes, that’s what the “pragmatic” approach to truth is. Scientific knowledge has practical utility, which is different from being true.

          I’m a realist, so I understand that practical utility isn’t the be-all and end-all of what we can know about reality. But I also understand that that’s a philosophical position, not a scientific one.

  • Pofarmer
  • smrnda

    It’s annoying when philosophers pretend to be scientists, but I also find it irritating when various people who use science or technology as part of their job pretend to be scientists. I once recall a creationism book written by a guy who had studied computer science in college and who developed software; I mean, seriously, let’s be honest that engineering is *related* to science but isn’t exactly the same, and I’d say software development is pretty distant from biology, yet the person was willing to decide that he could wade into biology and apparently set it all straight. I wouldn’t find a software developers book on evolution any more persuasive than I’d find a software developer to be a person to ask about symptoms of an illness.

    This is why I never get the whole creationist deal, they drag on say, a physician and apparently that lends the movement credibility, but a physician is a person who uses science as part of their job and is definitely not a scientist. The closest I can to being a scientist was when I decided *for a while* to study psychology in grad school; mathematics is not science.

    So not only philosophers, but a lot of other people should stop pretending to be scientists as well.

  • Greg G.

    What’s up with your blog? The Atheist page doesn’t list the most recent articles. The email I shows some XML errors:

    $errorCode=9
    xml_error_string()=Invalid character
    xml_get_current_line_number()=26
    xml_get_current_column_number()=25
    xml_get_current_byte_index()=1348

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Looks OK to me. Maybe something transient?

      Is it still causing trouble for you?

      • Greg G.

        It’s like that on three browsers on my hand held. It was like that on my laptop before and after this latest post using Firefox. I thought it was transient until I got the email with the errors under ‘Recent’. I have forwarded the email to you.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Thanks. I’ll be looking to see if the problem continues.

  • KarlUdy

    I think I understand part of your concern, and if I understand it correctly then I agree that it is a concern and can cause frustration. However, I think you have misidentified the issue by making it a complaint from science about philosophy.

    Any expert needs to be careful when they venture outside their area of expertise. It is not the case that an expert’s opinion becomes useless when outside their area of expertise. But they are not speaking on something they have expert knowledge on.

    A good analogy would be driving in a foreign country – the road rules and driving habits differ, sometimes markedly. This doesn’t make driving in a foreign country impossible, but it does make mistakes more likely, often because things are falsely assumed to be like they were back home.

    So I can understand that you would be frustrated if a philosopher of religion exposes their ignorance when they speak on science. If this was your criticism then I can agree (up to a point).

    In this post you mention William Lane Craig’s postulations on what science he deems valid, and fair enough, he’s outside his area of expertise so his views deserve the relevant caveat. However, this creates a problem for you in your criticism of philosophy as you are not a philosopher and so are speaking outside your area of expertise. And I believe this shows in your amateurish dismissal of both philosophy in general and serious philosophical arguments.

    • MNb

      How exactly does pointing out that WLC produces manure regarding physics create a problem as long as I don’t enter philosophy? What you neglect is that WLC with his Cosmological Argument has to claim things that totally belong to the domain of physics. These claims flat out contradict modern science. Me being a qualified teacher math and physics can easily point these wrong claims out without creating any problem for me.
      If WLC hadn’t been so arrogant he would have realized this and avoided getting smashed down by Carroll recently.
      The Cosmological Argument, in any version, is not a serious philosophical argument.

      • KarlUdy

        I’ll give you that the claim that the universe had a cause does belong to physics. I didn’t know that it “flat out contradicts modern science” though. Please enlighten me.

        Or is your problem with the other premise to the argument?

        • Greg G.

          The other premise is faulty, too. The inference that things that began to exist were caused to exist is based on things that were caused to exist by causes acting on components that already existed. It is a non sequitur to apply that to creatio ex nihilo .

          A cause acting on nothing can have no effect. WLC’s model of cause and effect presupposes time. But that limitation wouldn’t apply to a self-caused event that simultaneously caused the trinity of space, time, and energy.

        • KarlUdy

          Whether this premise is faulty is one discussion. But surely this discussion is one that beyonds to the realm of philosophy, not physics, because the scope of the discussion is not limited to the physical world.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          What?? What value is philosophy here?

          If you mean that the physicists wrestling with this problem are doing philosophy, fine. But don’t say that philosophy per se is the tool to use. It’s a physics problem.

        • MNb

          “WLC’s model of cause and effect presupposes time.”
          This is totally physics. Physicists debate the question if time is a feature of our Universe or if time before the Big Bang is meaningful. It’s misleading and close-minded to say that this issue is settled. I am with Augustinus and think it’s a feature of the Universe, but the scientific attitude is to take into account that I could be wrong.

        • Pofarmer

          “because the scope of the discussion is not limited to the physical world.”

          Isn’t that exactly the problem? We know, and by definition can know, nothing that is beyond the physical world, if that is even coherently possible.

        • Norm Donnan

          Ah but you can,this is what most people who have a religious or spiritual understanding find hard to believe about atheism. Its like if someone declares there love for another person and it is dismissed as a hormonal reaction,that may be true scientifically to an extent but is wrong in every other way.

        • Pofarmer

          You might have a point if there weren’t so many different religious and spiritual understandings.

        • smrnda

          I noticed when I was young that about everybody from every religion gets the same fix from their worship service. I concluded that it was more likely some kind of trick than anything being real, as these religions all contradicted each other. A lifetime of other evidence only strengthens the case that it’s all confirmation bias.

          On top of that, I’ve had hallucinations, so I know that one’s personal experience of something doesn’t mean it’s real.

        • Pofarmer

          I think there is an addictive quality to it, too. My wife has told me before that she “feels the most happy” in church. I mean you can have a total suspension of disbelief, and just go with whatever the priest is selling, I can see how it can be very liberating. Don’t worry about anything, just obey. Just follow the teachings of the church. Just submit and everything will be good. Pray to the saints, pray to Mary, pray to whoever. It’s a great way to absolve yourself of the responsibility for making decisions or taking responsibility for them. I was always too cynical, I guess.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I’ve wondered about that. To place your burdens at the feet of Jesus, confident that he’s a zillion times more capable than you are, can feel freeing, I imagine. But then what happens when those burdens don’t get resolved? You need money, you’ve got an addiction or illness, your spouse is abusive, whatever. So six months later, Jesus hasn’t done anything to solve your problems.

          So now what? Is it your fault somehow? Jesus just moves in mysterious ways or something?

          How has this overall experience been a positive one? Putting your troubles at the feet of Jesus doesn’t sound a lot different than just getting drunk or high and forgetting about them for a few hours.

        • Norm Donnan

          Thats like saying that feel great when your family and friends are with you ,like its wrong or something.
          When you wife feels in the presence of God what the priest says comes a long way behind and takeing responsability is a major part of biblical teaching.

        • Pofarmer

          Google “religious addiction” Norm, it’s a thing. It’s a suspension of reality just like any other suspension of reality, with similar brain chemistry causes.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          Have they been able to detect what region of the brain is active during the act of reducing all human experience to brain chemistry?

        • Norm Donnan

          No doubt it is but thats not what your wife is Im sure you know that,she simply feels the Holy Spirit’s presence which can calm you when your stressed,comfort and communicate with you.This is no addiction it’s what I call being in a personal relationship with God as opposed to religion which is doing stuff to try and earn god’s favor.

        • Pofarmer

          Norm, she goes to church a minimum of 4 days a week. She says that if she doesn’t have the Eucharist regularly “her soul could die”. Religion can go from something uplifting and good to something dark and controlling. I’ve seen it.

        • avalpert

          “When you wife feels in the presence of God ”

          Nah, probably just indigestion

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Michael Shermer talked about doing the Ride Across America and hallucinating after 3 or 4 hard days of biking with basically no sleep. The mind is an unreliable source of information.

        • MNb

          “I’ve had hallucinations”
          My visual hallucinations are from long ago, but I still have sonic hallucinations now and then: I think mistakenly someone says something to me but can’t hear exactly what. Also I have had OBE’s, last one more than 25 years ago.
          The fun is that scientists I never have met very accurately described what those experiences were like. Maybe they can read my mind or something?

        • Norm Donnan

          The point isnt the ammount of different experiences its the fact that there are lots of them and that the vast majority of people have them.God didnt just make one kind of fish or grass or potato even but lots of them,creativity is good and God is creative.

        • MNb

          So you’re totally OK with pastafarianism? That’s the most creative religion ever devised, so it must be your gods favourite one.

        • Norm Donnan

          Pasta doesnt do it for me,Im a meat and veggie man myself

        • Pofarmer

          Buddhist Monks can have them. Hindu’s can have them. American Indians doing spring fertility rituals can have them. Are you a polytheist now?

        • Norm Donnan

          Polytheist,Not in the slightest.
          What I do recognize is the spiritual realm of which there are two sides.
          On one side is the one who comes as an angel of light which is the great deceiver and on the other is the hugely creative,gracious God.
          What other religions know is they have genuine spiritual experience’s but fail to recognize who is behind them.
          Because they dont know the Holy Spirit they are unable to differentiate what parts of their religion are of God,what is of themselves and what is of the devil.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Why is it the other guy who’s deceived? Maybe you’re the one listening to the Bad Guy.

          Look at the apologies people make for the bad stuff this guy does (Canaanite genocide, Haiti earthquake, and so on). My vote says that the guy behind all that is the Great Deceiver™.

        • Norm Donnan

          Sorry Sir Bob you dont get to vote,you have to be a citizen of the spiritual realm to vote.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I’m not asking for a vote; I’m asking you why you think your guy is the Good Guy. Looking around at life–lots of good things but also lots of bad things–I think you can make a decent argument that the Guy in charge is actually the bad one.

          Is there some asymmetry in reality that means that this can only be the creation of a good god?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Polytheist? Of course not! Norm’s a Trinitarian. That’s not even close to polytheism! OK, well, it is quite close, but not identical. Sort of.

        • Pofarmer

          Pretty sure he believes in the devil, too. If one is monotheistic, where does that leave the devil?

        • Norm Donnan

          Angels arnt Gods,simple.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          What’s the difference? Are angels and demons demigods?

          They’re immortal supernatural beings–they’ve got to be in some special category.

        • Norm Donnan

          Oh Sir Robert your understanding is as clear as usual.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Perhaps you can make things clearer? If you’re so inclined, show us how Trinitarianism works. My vote: just admit that there are three gods and call yourself a polytheist. Or is “monotheist” too important a label to discard?

        • MNb

          Why “dismissed”? This merely shows how prejudiced you are. I don’t have any problem with love described as merely a hormonal reaction. Recognizing spirituality and religiousity as the nonsense it is enables me to value love etc. for what it is – something to thoroughly enjoy. That joy is merely a hormonal reaction as well of course; well, I welcome such hormonal reactions.
          You apparently not. You don’t show anything wrong with mere hormonal reactions, you show something thoroughly wrong with the way you perceive love. I think it sad that your love has to be sustained by spiritiuality and religiousity. Mine doesn’t need such things.

        • Norm Donnan

          And so hows that working for you Mark?
          “Oh my sweetheart you make my hormones rise quite high”
          How could a girl resist you!!
          “I love you Mark”….”Ah no thats just your pheromones being triggered by electrical impulses in your brain”.
          Let me guess,your lonely and you carnt work out why you dont have much luck with the ladies?

        • MNb

          “you carnt work out why you dont have much luck with the ladies?”
          BWAHAHAHAHA!
          I would have thought you, as a good christian, would value monogamy very high. Now you say that I should try to score with the ladies! Plural! On a regular base!
          Tell you what? Since 1990 I have been without a female counterpart for exactly 6 months.
          You are very good at making a silly fool out yourself, dear Norm.

        • Norm Donnan

          Your mother,lady next door,blow up dolls and a bird in a cage dont count,sorry Mark.

        • smrnda

          This is the type of BS I hear from religious people, mostly Christians all the time.

          If I look at an amazing painting, in the end it is paint on canvas, but this is just a statement of fact and it doesn’t reduce the value of the painting at all.

          In the end, the experience of love is biochemistry, but so what? That doesn’t make it any less. There’s nothing except the physical to build this with.

          The problem with your ‘spiritual experiences’ is you pretend that the experience is proof the thing you say inspires it exists. I have met people who believe in ghosts, and who *feel evidence for this* or who believe in other types of woo and weirdness. It can all be accounted for by confirmation bias, which is also why people find their OWN woo persuasive, but not someone else’s.

        • Norm Donnan

          And so how does that make other peoples experiences less true .The fact is that it happened to you.
          What would you say when others say you being lesbian is you pretending that how you feel is proof that your lesbian??

        • Greg G.

          The discussion is about a logical argument meant to prove the existence of a god. To reach that as a valid conclusion, the premises must be true. If you allow premises that are not known to be true, you could prove anything to be true because that allowance creates an invalid form of logic.

          The Kalam argument starts with two false premises and proceeds through a non sequitur yet many consider it the best argument for a god.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          That’s a great distinction that I should’ve added to the post (creating from existing material, which we understand, and creating from nothing, for which we have no precedent).

        • MNb

          It’s part of the general problem how immaterial entities are supposed to interact with our material reality.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          “Everything that begins has a cause” is part of WLC’s argument. It’s wrong.

        • MNb

          If we grant causality (which modern physics doesn’t) the Cosmological Argument excludes a priori circularity, while according to modern physic it is totally possible.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        I think that the point that most of my detractors are making is that everyone does philosophy. It’s just a category of human thought. In the post, I pointed to Plantinga’s suggestion that philosophy is just thinking about hard problems (or whatever it was).

        And I agreed in the posts.

        I can understand that you would be frustrated if a philosopher of religion exposes their ignorance when they speak on science. If this was your criticism then I can agree (up to a point).

        I can see a good chance of value from a chemist giving suggestions to a biologist or physicist (or vice versa). But a philosopher with no formal training in, say, cosmology setting himself up as a critic of that field? Why the “up to a point” caveat?? It’s ridiculous on the face of it.

        • MNb

          Bertrand Russell makes the obvious point that several of the most important philosophers in human history weren’t academics at all.

          “But a philosopher with no formal training in, say, cosmology setting himself up as a critic of that field?”
          Is as silly as an economist doing the same (or a certain lawyer criticizing Evolution Theory …..). So this smells like a false dichotomy. Obviously a philosopher who wants to criticize cosmology (understood as a field of study of physicists) totally should get informed about modern physics first. That’s exactly the core of my criticism of WLC. I’ll give you too that I’m not aware of any philosopher who is sufficiently informed. Who knows, when I retire, are still healthy and energetic and feel like …. It might keep me busy.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          ?? I see that I replied to you with my response to Karl. Whoops.

          Obviously a philosopher who wants to criticize cosmology (understood as a field of study of physicists) totally should get informed about modern physics first.

          So then you’re talking about a physicist criticizing cosmology. That sounds pretty sensible to me.

        • MNb

          Yeah, that kind of thing happens. Fortunately I understood.

          “So then …”
          No double standards please. I am a teacher physics, not a physicist. Still I use physics to point at the flaws in the Cosmological Argument and I haven’t noticed you object. If I can get informed about modern physics lots of philosophers can as well. That includes WLC; for one thing I had never even heard of Boltzmann Brains, unlike him.
          There is no reason why philosophers can’t understand the difference between causality and probability. You don’t need to become a physicist for this.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          When you, a non-physicist, start rejecting the consensus view within physics, I’ll object (as I’ve objected to others in that situation before). As a conveyor of the consensus view, however, I’m sure you do a better job than most. Keep it up.

          A non-physicist like WLC making conclusions within physics (“Ooh! Ooh! Pick me! I know how the universe got started!”) or, as a non-biologist rejecting the consensus, as he does with evolution, I take exception.

        • MNb

          That’s why I started with saying that I don’t object the content of your two articles on philosoph, but on what the titles imply. WLC is not representative for the field.

    • Norm Donnan

      Another good example is speaking about Christian theology and experience in particular and religion in general.

      • smrnda

        Here’s a problem – no matter how much you know on those topics, Christians will decide that there’s still *one thing you don’t know* or *one source you haven’t read.* Or they’ll say the churches you sampled weren’t representative, or else they weren’t authentic.

        • Norm Donnan

          But the fact remains that people like you go along to whatever church with a closed mind and limited understanding and look for faults about things you dont believe in and then tell those who do that we are dreaming. Talk about “pop”philosophy and theology.

        • MNb

          Yeah yeah, we already know silly Norm, everyone whose opinion even only slightly deviates from yours has a closed mind.

  • avalon

    Philosophy can be great at showing you how to think about things in new ways. And most philosophers use logic and reason as a foundation for their arguments. The problem with apologetic philosophers is that their foundation is a bunch of unfounded assumptions.
    Craig clearly says that some of his intuitions come from God. He defines God according to the words of the bible and he believes the bible is ‘God’s word’. But he refuses to discuss how the bible is inspired, inerrant, etc… He refuses to discuss how intuitions from God enter and interact with his brain. And he refuses to discuss the circularity of defining God from the bible and the bible being God’s word. Instead, he tries to trap his opponent in the secondary logic of his arguments.

    When you focus on the foundation of his arguments, they all fall apart because they aren’t logical.

  • MNb

    Philosophy is good for this:

    http://www.gutenberg.org/files/3296/3296-h/3296-h.htm#link2H_4_0011

    Book 11.

    “If an instant of time be conceived, which cannot be divided into the smallest particles of moments, that alone is it, which may be called present.”
    Pretty relevant given

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planck_time

    Note that Augustinus here totally debunks the difference between “historical” and “observational” science as all observations technically belong to the past.

    “What then is time? If no one asks me, I know: if I wish to explain it to one that asketh, I know not.”

    Indeed up to now I never have met a physicist able to explain what time exactly is.
    From Wikipedia, lemma Time:

    “Time has long been a major subject of study in religion, philosophy and science, but defining it in a manner applicable to all fields without circularity has consistently eluded scholars”
    As the same is the case for mass I suspect such definitions are impossible for the fundamental quantities of physics. If this is correct the entire International System of Units is circular. Without philosophy I would not have understood this. It’s even important for my job (teaching physics) because kids totally ask those kind of questions.
    That’s what philosophy is good for.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      If a thousand philosophers pontificate for their lifetimes, will they ever say anything true? Quite possibly, but what’s our warrant for believing it? Science, as you point out. We can cut out the middle man by just listening to science.

      We don’t know that time is discrete because of Augustine but because of physics.

      This was the problem in the recent “Cosmos” episode that featured Giordano Bruno. Bruno was kind of right about the universe, but not for any good reason. He was a theologian, not a scientist.

      • MNb

        Augustinus was right for the right reason (until physics shows that Planck-time infintely can be divided) so the comparison doesn’t hold up. More important it was Augustinus who pointed out the consequences, something you neglect.

        “We can cut out the middle man by just listening to science.”
        Nope. It wasn’t a physicist who pointed out that time is very hard or impossible to define. You need philosophy to understand that the entire International System of Units is circular.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          A scientific claim is right for the right reason when it is the result of a solid line of evidence. Are you saying that this is the path that Augustine followed?

          Time is hard to define? OK.

          How is the SI system circular? One meter = x wavelengths of light from y source sounds pretty reasonable to me.

          If there’s an error within the SI system, I suppose we can say that philosophy is the tool by which we discover the error. That works for me.

        • MNb

          I’m not saying that there is an error within the SI-system. It’s coherent and consistent, but possibly that’s the best we can get. It means that in the end it’s only justification is that it works. That’s obviously fine enough for me. My point is that we need philosophy to realize this.

          “Are you saying …”
          Don’t be silly. Augustinus, like philosophers should do, went beyond that point, starting where science (of his time) stopped. The Ancients also had clocks, you know, so they were capable of measuring time. But that doesn’t tell us much yet about what time exactly is or why it can be measured that way.

          “One meter = x wavelengths of light from y source”
          That’s only shifting the problem. Before defining meter you’ll have to decide how to measure that wavelength and not in terms of meters. You’ll also have to define length; is it “shortest distance between two points” then you’ll have to define distance etc.
          Like I wrote in another comment I run into this problem when teaching. Assuming my first-graders know and understand zilch about physics I have to begin somewhere. That’s hard if basic quantities can’t be defined independently. The only option left is talking around and appealing to intuition, which I feel is somewhat cheating.

        • Compuholic

          Before defining meter you’ll have to decide how to measure that wavelength and not in terms of meters.

          First of all, a meter is not defined through any wavelength but through the distance that light travels in ~1/300000000 th of a second. And secondly it doesn’t matter. I can define a meter as a fraction of any distance I like and it does not matter how this initial distance is measured. It could be measured in feet, elbows or fingers.

          The SI system is not circular: It is just that its units are arbitrary. What makes the SI system special is not how the units are defined but the relationships amoung the units.

          I know what you are trying to say. The we don’t have an intrinsic way to measure spacial extent. But there are two possibilities here:
          1) There is no such way, in which case it is useless to complain about it.
          2) There is an intrinsic measure of space: But philosophers will not be the ones who will provide this answer. It will be physicists.

        • MNb

          Two is correct if there is an intrinsic measure of space. I maintain there isn’t, ie point 1.
          I don’t complain about it (you’re too smart for such a silly reproach – leave that kind of stuff to Norm and co); I just establish the fact and note that I used philosophy to do so.

          “What makes the SI system special is not how the units are defined but the relationships amoung the units.”
          Nice piece of philosophy, thus confirming my point: we need philosophy to find out eg what makes the SI system special.

        • Compuholic

          we need philosophy to find out eg what makes the SI system special

          I don’t buy that. To my knowledge no philosophers were needed to create it. So obviously the physicists were able to figure out on their own why creating such a system would be nice, namely that it would make their life easier.

        • MNb

          “why creating such a system would be nice”
          But that wasn’t what I was contradicting. You’re shifting goalposts.

        • Compuholic

          How so? It seems to me that you claimed that we need philosophy to see why the SI system is special. And my point was that the physicists who created it obviously didn’t need it.

        • MNb

          Your point doesn’t contradict my claim in any way. My claim never was that the physicists etc. needed philosophy. Weird that you people (BobS is also one of them) think so. Suggesting so looks like shifting goalposts.
          I have written elsewhere that philosophy in our days means reflection. So by definition it comes after the event.
          First comes SI; only when we have it you – it wasn’t me who did it – points out why it’s so special (“the relationships amoung the units”) and that’s a nice little piece of philosophy.
          It was not like physicists first asked “hey guys, how can we make SI special? Let’s develop some gorgeous relationships amoung the units to stun the world how great physics is!”
          So when you begin to argue that philosophy should show at beforehand “why such a thing would be nice” you’re shifting goalposts indeed. It’s not what I’m writing about.

        • Compuholic

          Well, that is a very special definition of philosophy – one that reduces its meaning to almost nothing since everybody reflects on something. So I guess everybody is a philosopher.

        • $96403225

          “a meter is not defined through any wavelength but through the distance that light travels in ~1/300000000 th of a second. And secondly it doesn’t matter. I can define a meter as a fraction of any distance I like and it does not matter how this initial distance is measured”

          I really hope the PhD you’re allegedly working on isn’t in a scientific field — you don’t understand anything about how standards are set or derived.

          http://physics.nist.gov/cuu/Units/meter.html

        • Compuholic

          I see you stalked me to this blog as well. Well your lack of reading comprehension shows again. The link provided backs me up on everything I said.

        • $96403225

          “I can define a meter as a fraction of any distance I like …”

          -> So is it okay for me to define a meter as half my height?

          “… and it does not matter how this initial distance is measured”

          -> I guess you’ve never heard of the word “traceability”. How the initial distance is measured is of ENORMOUS importance.

          I really hope you don’t work in a technical field for a living. In the unlikely (and unsettling) case that you do, I’d be happy to elevate this discussion to a more technical level.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          In the unlikely (and unsettling) case that you do, I’d be happy to elevate this discussion to a more technical level.

          One wonders why you’d bother. Seems that you’ve already concluded that your opponent is beneath you. This isn’t just a waste of your time?

        • $96403225

          I don’t consider anyone “beneath me”, but an atheist would certainly understand the importance of having one’s facts straight.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Getting the facts straight sounds like a fine goal. Civility, too.

        • $96403225

          Agreed.

          (I was about to say “amen” but then realized that might be unnecessarily provocative … :))

        • $96403225

          So anyone who takes an interest in what you have to say is “stalking” you? If you’re not proud of your comments, why make your Disqus profile private all of a sudden?

        • Compuholic

          So is it okay for me to define a meter as half my height?

          Sure. Just don’t expect anyone else to follow your definition. And if you had read the comment you would have noticed that that was not the point. The point was to measure the property “length” on an abstract level. And the meter can be defined as a fraction of any physical distance (and that was indeed the original definition).

          I guess you’ve never heard of the word “traceability”. How the initial distance is measured is of ENORMOUS importance.

          No shit. Too bad that the initial post had absolutely nothing to do with it. But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised given your track record on reading comprehension.

          I’d be happy to elevate this discussion to a more technical level.

          That presumes that I actually want a discussion with you. Either you are really that stupid or you are deliberately misrepresenting what I said. Since you don’t strike me as the stupid type, I have to assume you are doing it on porpose which makes you an asshole. In either case: I don’t want to talk to you.

        • $96403225

          “I have to assume you are doing it on porpose which makes you an asshole.”

          Or maybe you simply either don’t know what you’re talking about and/or can’t express yourself in a clear, unambiguous way.

          Calling me an “asshole” is about the only straightforward thing you’ve said … sad.

        • Compuholic

          Maybe I was wrong and you really are a fucking idiot. I’ll make this really simple for you. I’ll reformulate my initial statement into a question for you.

          What is so special about the definition of the meter? Why was it the 1/10000000th of the distance between the equator and the north pole. What is so special about this ratio? Or why is the length this fraction defines, so special?

        • $96403225

          “Maybe I was wrong and you really are a fucking idiot”

          Or perhaps you’ve decided that you prefer insulting people and using profanity over having a mature, intellectual discussion?

        • $96403225

          No, I think I was wrong to assume you preferred a mature, intellectual discussion over insults and profanity.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      “What
      then is time? If no one asks me, I know: if I wish to explain it to one that
      asketh, I know not.”

      Reminds me of the Buddhist observation: the Buddha exists for those who need him to exists, and he doesn’t exist for those who don’t need him to exist.

  • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

    I couldn’t find a list of the Top Ten philosophical breakthroughs for 2013.

    Since I have no problem criticizing creationists or 9/11 truthers for having no familiarity with the disciplines they pretend to engage, I can’t see why I shouldn’t giggle a little when our host makes sweeping pronouncements about a field he hasn’t studied and derides writers whose work he has never read.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Giggle away, but I’m not sharing the joke. I’m considering philosophy’s usefulness and finding that it’s not useful in the same way as science is. I would’ve thought we’d be on the same page here.

      But why the barrier to entry for philosophy? I thought we were also on the same page that everyone does philosophy.

      • SparklingMoon-

        it’s not useful in the same way as science is.

        ———————————————–
        Philosophy is useful and helpful for human progress in all fields of knowledge (either it is about religion or about science) on the condition if its theories have their foundation on divine laws of God. Philosophy relates to a human ability of contemplation that motivates human mind for descention of knowledge . God has bestowed human brain with an ability to contemplate and to receive more knowledge. People in different fields of life according to their level of understanding receive some more knowledge for their particular field of contemplation. The people of scientific fields have physical world to use its laws as a foundation for the truth of their descended knowledge but in religion the words of Revelation fulfill this purpose.

        • Norm Donnan

          Well put Sparki

        • Rudy R

          Conditioning philosophical theories as only useful and helpful for human progress if attributed to divine laws of God is a logical fallacy.

        • SparklingMoon

          The simple meanings of philosophy are to search for a least truth about the reality of a thing. In worldly matters, the following of a conception that is direct contradict to the prevailed laws of God would be like a wandering in a deep and dark jungle. In the field of religion a philosopher must have to base or judge the truth of his logic or philosophy by the words of God’s revelation. It is tried by some philosophers to find God by their own invented devices like philosophy or logic etc instead of following His guiding laws. They all completely failed to find or reach to that God Almighty who appears only to those who follows His revealed Laws.

        • MNb

          “if its theories have their foundation on divine laws of God. Philosophy relates to a human ability of contemplation that motivates human mind for descention of knowledge .”
          I guarantee you that you won’t find any knowledge but by accident if you found your theories on divine laws of your personal god. The flight of science only took off seriously when all religious influences were removed some 200 years ago, ie abandoned those divine laws.
          You disagree? Then I’d like you to point out which divine law of God gave us the insight that nothing can exceed the speed of light. Of course you must give a reference from before 1887 and show how that reference was divinely inspired.
          Good luck.

        • SparklingMoon

          The flight of science only took off seriously when all religious influences were removed some 200 years ago, ie abandoned those divine laws.
          ————————————————
          The divine laws that are working in this universe or the Laws that are revealed to prophets both have the same fountainhead and that is only God Almighty. It is wrong to consider that recent human progress in all fields of life has no foundation in its past. it is a historical fact that revelation of God (by His prophets) had played a fundamental role in different areas of the world to evolve human reason in a right direction.The followers of a revelation and the people who living around them by following these laws had developed their human reason step by step to this high level where it is now.

          If we examine the history of any religion either it is Hinduism or Judaism or Christianity or Buddhism or Islam or any other religion of the world we will find their followers had made a sudden unexpected progress. These prophets seem alphabetically illiterate people as compare to the people of this time. They knew little or nothing of the arts or culture of their time. Yet what each taught after having revelation and that turned out to be something in advance of his time, something pertinent and seasonable. By adopting this teaching a people attained to a great height in civilization and culture, and retained the glory for many centuries. A true religious Teacher makes this possible. Yet it is inconceivable that a person innocent of ordinary accomplishments, as soon as he begins to lie about God, should come to have such tremendous powers that his teaching dominates all other teachings current in his time. Such a development is impossible without the help of a powerful God who always explores new laws to his people for making their next progress where they are.

          What scientific progress have been made during the past or recent century has its roots in the revelation that had been given during the time of five six thousand years. You are right that Christian followers had made their scientific progress after leaving religion but what religion? a religion that had no relation to the revelation of Jesus as he never talked about Trinity. Those scientist had truth in their nature and they had put the foundation of their contemplation on the knowledge that reached to them by the followers of some other revelations. Scientific progress in Europe has its roots in the knowledge that had been taught in Spain by Muslims. This knowledge had brought them in light and truth. I give only one example of Newton as charge of heresy was leveled against him because in his eyes worshipping Christ was idolatry, to him a fundamental sin. It is written by R.S. Westfall about Newton: ‘He recognized Christ as a divine mediator between God and humankind, who was subordinate to the Father Who created him.”

          It is not important for a person to make a open claim to be follower of a certain revelation for receiving a knowledge by God Almighty. A resemblance in nature to His laws brings an ability to have this descention of knowledge as He is the source of all new knowledge.

        • MNb

          “These prophets seem alphabetically illiterate people as compare to the people of this time.”
          BWAHAHAHAHA! The Jewish prophets from 500 – 200 BCE understood far less than the Greek scientists and philosophers a few 100 km farther on. And Thales was the first in the region to systematically apply naturalism, ie looking for non-divine explanations.

          “What scientific progress have been made during the past or recent century has its roots in the revelation”
          Like the silly apologist you are you have neglected my question. But I’m happy to repeat it in your own words.

          “which revelation gave us the insight that nothing can exceed the speed of light? Of course you must give a reference from before 1887 and show how that reference was divinely inspired.”

          “Scientific progress in Europe has its roots in the knowledge that had been taught in Spain by Muslims.”
          So what? I never said muslims were dumb or something. This doesn’t show though that that knowledge was inspired by the Quran or some revelation. In fact those muslims had received a lot of their knowledge from those Ancient Greeks; they received some more from India. This rather contradicts your statement that that knowledge is rooted in divine law.
          Same for Newton. His work on Classical Mechanics is totally independent from his religious beliefs, which are considered nutty by any religious standard of the 21 Century I am aware of.
          Finally those mediaeval muslims plus Newton lived well before 1800 CE, so they do nothing to contradict

          “The flight of science only took off seriously when all religious influences were removed some 200 years ago, ie abandoned those divine laws.”
          Try again, because this attempt is just lame.

        • SparklingMoon

          The Jewish prophets from 500 – 200 BCE understood far less than the Greek scientists and philosophers a few 100 km farther on.
          ————————————————————
          Prophets, in spite of having no worldly knowledge, had presented such teachings thats practice brought a revolution in their around existed culture and civilization. This proves simply that they and their revelation was from God Almighty.

          Secondly, as prophet Buddha had been turned into a Philosopher and even a God by some people in their descriptions (Prophet Jesus also had been changed into a part of God ) as Socrates was also being considered falsely mere a worldly philosopher otherwise he was also a prophet of God and had revelation and Plato and Aristotle were his followers.

        • MNb

          Yeah, and so had Heisenberg when deriving his famous Uncertainty Principle. And I when I played my best chess game ever.

        • SparklingMoon

          This rather contradicts your statement that that knowledge is rooted in divine law.

          —————————————————-
          I think you have some misunderstanding when I have used the word divine laws. I have not used it for the laws of revelation but for the laws of nature. I mean that as for worldly knowledge the prevailed divine laws of nature help us to use them as a foundation for right and wrong of our contemplation in the same way the words of revelation provide us a foundation to check our thinking in the matter of religion.

          Secondly, the basic purpose of a religion is always to create a live relation between God and His people and to achieve this purpose the moral condition is always improved but it is a strange thing that after the appearance of every prophet, his followers also have made a stunning worldly progress also. This shows that moral progress has some relation for receiving a knowledge for worldly progress also. The received knowledge of these followers of a prophet becomes a foundation for other people to make a worldly progress. The time of a prophet is called by God a spring time that brings a new progress in all fields of life either it relates to spiritual or intellectual.

        • MNb

          “I have not used it for the laws of revelation but for the laws of nature.”
          Then call them laws of nature, because nothing divine has to anything do with them.

        • SparklingMoon

          Then call them laws of nature, because nothing divine has to anything do with them.
          ——————————————————
          The Grace of God Covers Everything God is the light of the heavens and the earth. Every light that is visible on the heights or in the valleys, whether in souls or in bodies, whether personal or impersonal, whether apparent or hidden, whether in the mind or outside it, is a bounty of His grace. This is an indication that the general grace of the Lord of the worlds envelops everything and nothing is deprived of that grace. He is the source of all grace, the
          ultimate cause of all lights and the fountainhead of all mercies. His Being is the support of the universe and is the refuge of all high and low. He it is Who brought everything out of the darkness of nothingness and bestowed upon everything the mantle of being. No
          other being than Him is in himself present and eternal or is not the recipient of His grace. Earth and heaven, man and animals, stones and trees, souls and bodies, have all come into existence by His grace. (Ruhani Khazain)

        • MNb

          That’s not an answer, but just baked air.

      • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

        I’m considering philosophy’s usefulness and finding that it’s not useful in the same way as science is.

        Oh, that’s what you’re doing: criticizing philosophy for not being what no one expects it to be in the first place.

        I would think you’d want to familiarize yourself with the writings of contemporary philosophers before you make pronouncements about their entire discipline. It doesn’t seem likely that you’d realize philosophy’s worth by watching YouTube debates starring William Lane Craig. And if you think every flamebaiter online is doing “philosophy,” I’m not surprised you have a low opinion of the field.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Now that we’ve gone back and forth many times and any subtleties have been clarified, I’m not sure what there is to disagree on. The most I can get out of this is that I didn’t express our shared thinking in the same way that you did. OK, thanks for that input. Or are you just determined to disagree?

        • MNb

          “I’m not sure what there is to disagree on.”
          After wading through the entire thread again today I’d say hardly anything.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          I’m not sure what there is to disagree on.

          Well, if you’re claiming that philosophy is “mental masturbation” being perpetrated by “knuckleheads,” I disagree. There are certainly charlatans out there (Derrida and Deleuze, for instance, make me sick), like in any discipline. But philosophy itself is important.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Yet again, I’m not sure where we disagree.

    • smrnda

      There was some joke in a ‘faux philosophy news’ that “Kripke admits to falsifying data in thought experiments.”

      Oddly enough, there was this time when Wittgenstein’s Tractatus was considered an epic breakthrough in philosophy; the problem was it didn’t seem to resolve anything, it just split philosophy into more camps.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        Brilliant!

  • Rudy R

    I’ve just a basic knowledge of philosophy, but none of the long dissertations from the armchair philosophers have proven a personal god exists. The Christian apologists may be able to prove a god exists by using philosophy, but they can’t prove Jesus was the son of god with philosophy. That takes faith, because there is no reliable scientific evidence to prove otherwise.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I think you’re too generous. I haven’t seen any Christian proof, philosophical or otherwise, that a god exists.

      • Rudy R

        Maybe so, but the imperative word is “may” in “may be able to prove a god exists.”

    • SparklingMoon-

      I’ve just a basic knowledge of philosophy, but none of the long dissertations from the armchair philosophers have proven a personal god exists.
      —————————————————–
      The philosophers have put forth every effort to bring the creation of heavenly and earthly bodies within the purview of their physical laws and to establish the source of all creation, but they have utterly failed to do so. Whatever they have gathered together as the result of their physical research is quite incomplete and defective. That is why they have not been able to adhere to their theories throughout and have always changed them about. As their research is confined entirely to their reason and speculation and they receive no help from God, they cannot emerge out of their darkness. No one can truly recognize God till he understands that there are numberless activities of the Divine which are far beyond and above human power, reason, and speculation. Before reaching this stage of understanding, a person is either an atheist and has no faith in God, or if he does believe in God, that god is the result of his own reasoning and is not the God Who manifests His Own Being and the mysteries of Whose powers are so numerous that human reason cannot encompass them. (Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol.23, p.280-282)

  • King Dave

    I agree with Craig’s assertion of Moral relativism.

    Coming up on the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, the only way to have reduced casualties that numbered close to one million in merely 100 days, would have been to murderer the government forces and the oppressors. As we’ve seen there was no employed method of reasoning or negotiation that would have prevented this genocide, the commitment was made to exterminate an entire ethnic group and all opposition.

    Also the last American in Rwanda throughout the genocide really helping people was a single white Christian missionary volunteer

    The outside thinkers of the world did nothing
    Love your morality articles Bob

    • smrnda

      I’m not sure how to follow this comment – history is full of public policy failures where people in some nations failed to prevent bad things from happening in other ones. My take is that in the end, US foreign policy is mostly guided by political power games, and that there was no way to make an intervention in Rwanda a good business proposition to anyone.

      Though the other problem is it isn’t hard to find examples of ‘humanitarian interventions’ which ended in bloodbaths.

      I wanted to add that some of these bloodbaths occur because nations feel themselves anointed by some god for some special destiny.

      • Compuholic

        And I would like to add that even if bloodshed really was the best option. There is no way for you to know in advance.

        • King Dave

          As it turns out the UN and USA were fully aware of what was going on, indiscriminate murder. Roméo Antonius Dallaire Force Commander of UNAMIR, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda reported directly to the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan

          Quick Facts:

          On April 9, UN observers witnessed the massacre of children at a Polish church in Gikondo. .Most of the victims were killed in their own villages or in towns, often by their neighbors and fellow villagers. The militia typically murdered victims by machetes

          One such massacre occurred at Nyarubuye. On April 12, more than 1,500 Tutsis sought refuge in a Catholic church in Nyange, then in Kivumu commune. Local Interahamwe, acting in concert with the authorities, used bulldozers to knock down the church building.[144] The militia used machetes and rifles to kill every person who tried to escape. Local priest Athanase Seromba was later found guilty and sentenced to life in prison by the ICTR for his role in the demolition of his church; he was convicted of the crime of genocide and crimes against humanity.[144][145][146] In another case, thousands sought refuge in the Official Technical School (École Technique Officielle) in Kigali where Belgian UNAMIR soldiers were stationed. On April 11, the Belgian soldiers withdrew, and Rwandan armed forces and militia killed all the Tutsi

          Bill Clinton, madeleine albright and kofi Annan forbid military intervention and even refused to admit this was genocide. The UN pulled it’s peace keepers instead

          Demonetization in the form of dehumanization is responsible in Rwanda

          Thank you Bob for allowing me to post

    • https://www.facebook.com/michael.carteron Michael

      How is this a case of moral relativism? Does anyone besides the Hutu killers think it was a good thing? On the other hand, Craig defends the Canaanite genocide (though thankfully that appears not to have really happened), using a very morally relativistic argument, so I’d say he’s no one to talk.

      • King Dave

        I’m not pro genocide anywhere, but it happens everywhere
        Not to kill seems like a no brainer, but that decision is what got one million people slaughtered in 100 days. Right and wrong is not easily defined. Different choices will be forced upon us in Rwanda as opposed to the US

        Here is someone who says it way better than I could

        Christopher Hitchens:

        “Any critique of realism has to begin with a sober assessment of the horrors of peace. Everybody now wishes, or at least says they wish, that we had not made ourselves complicit spectators in Rwanda. But what if it had been decided to take action? Only one member state of the U.N. Security Council would have had the capacity to act with speed to deploy pre-emptive force (and that would have been very necessary, given the weight of the French state, and the French veto, on the side of the genocidaires). It is a certainty that at some stage, American troops would have had to open fire on the “Hutu Power” mobs and militias, actually killing people and very probably getting killed in return. Body bags would have been involved. It is not an absolute certainty that all detained members of those militias would have been treated with unfailing tenderness. It is probable that some of the military contractors would have overcharged, and that some locals would have engaged in profiteering and even in tribal politics. It is impossible that any child of any member of the Clinton administration would have been an enlisted soldier. But we never had to suffer any of these wrenching experiences, so that we can continue to wish, in some parallel Utopian universe, that we had done something instead of nothing.”

        http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/fighting_words/2005/11/realism_in_darfur.html

        • https://www.facebook.com/michael.carteron Michael

          I’m sorry, it seems unclear what you’re arguing. At first it seemed you were claiming that Craig is right, the 20th century atrocities are the result of moral relativism, with Rwanda being an example. I noted the problems with his hypocrisy over that. Now it seems you’re saying that we shouldn’t have intervened in Rwanda, or perhaps I’m not understanding you. I understand that no intervention can be without cost, and I’m certainly not pacifistic. So…I don’t know exactly what is being argued now.

        • King Dave

          Sorry for the confusion.
          I should say I’m also not a Craig supporter, I feel I was hit below the belt with that one. I simply believe there is not always a clear write or wrong.

          The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

          Edmund Burke

  • GubbaBumpkin

    I get annoyed with philosophers putting on an imaginary lab coat and playing scientist like a child plays house..

    You could do a similar post on lawyers who think lawyerly logic is superior to all other viewpoints, and are convinced they could do science better than scientists. Examples include Phillip E. Johnson with Darwin on Trial and Norman Macbeth with Darwin Retried.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker
      • Greg G.

        Twelve people who would rather be somewhere else decide who has the better lawyer.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          :-)

        • https://www.facebook.com/michael.carteron Michael

          In America, you have the right to be tried by twelve people who couldn’t get out of jury duty.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Reminds me of the observation that democracy is the worst form of government … except for all the others. Maybe the same applies to our system of justice.

        • https://www.facebook.com/michael.carteron Michael

          Probably. After all, what is a jury but a tiny democracy? Yet unlike the electorate, they must be unanimous, something that isn’t required for other issues. So yes, it’s flawed like everything else, but the alternatives seem worse.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          A Christian would likely be just as aware of how our laws and justice work, warts and all, but then he’s baffled by the idea that morality isn’t grounded in some sort of objective/absolute manner. We ordinary, fallible humans do our best to make a just society, but that same explanation won’t work for morality.

          Weird.

        • https://www.facebook.com/michael.carteron Michael

          Someone must first explain what an objective morality would be-I have yet to hear a convincing explanation-then argue their doctrine fits this-even harder. If “objective” is to mean “mind-independent” as some claim (though I think this is quite problematic) that means Craig’s is right out, as he defines God as a disembodied, timeless mind. Too bad.

  • The Man With The Name Too Long

    I wonder why things like the origin of rain or tangled headphone wires are considered scientific questions, but the origin of the universe is a philosophical question. If the universe is made up of smaller things that can be explained by science, then what’s the point of lumping all of those things into one package and then saying “Well, science can’t explain the whole!” ? I mean, could you find out the answer to why things exist just by sitting in a chair and thinking about it really hard? Somehow there are many who settle for “a being outside of time and space created everything to glorify himself” as the best (and only) answer. To me, that’s equivalent to “a wizard did it” and is just as valid.

    That said, I don’t think that philosophy discovers things, but rather talks about how we discover things. The literal meaning of “love of knowledge” is not much to go on with respect to what philosophy actually does.

    • MNb

      “the origin of the universe is a philosophical question.”
      Who says this? I doubt that even WLC goes that far. Edward Feser perhaps.

  • SparklingMoon

    If you want to see what keeps the planet warm, go outside on a sunny day and look up. A god who is eager to have a relationship with us and is so much powerful and important than sun should be at least as obvious.
    ———————————————————–
    You are exactly right that a person who want to see what keeps the planet warm, must have to go outside on a sunny day and look up to see the real source of this warmness as sitting in a room can not make it possible for him to have a first hand knowledge about the existence of sun. It is a common law of this world that a person must have to follow a particular way to achieve anything therefore a seeker of God Almighty must have to adopt a particular path also to find Him. According to religious information, this journey towards God is always made by human nature instead of physical body. A seed certainly possessed an unseen ability to turn into a fruitful tree but nobody can make a guess from its outward physical form the inner ability till it is sown in the soil (by following the law of God that He has appointed for it). All Human natures also possess an ability to recognize their God in this life and get the fruits of revelation that help to realize His existence in this world but people must have to follow a particular path first that is appointed by their Creator.

    Mirza Ghulam Ahmad has written: ”The Gracious and Merciful Lord who has invested human nature with the hunger and thirst of His own complete understanding has endowed human nature with two types of faculties for the purpose of arriving at that understanding. One type are the intellectual faculties the source of which is the brain, and the other type are spiritual faculties the source of which is the heart and the purity of which depends upon the purity of the heart. That which cannot be discovered through the intellectual faculties is reached through the spiritual faculties. Spiritual faculties can develop such purity that the graces of the Source of Grace can be mirrored in them,but the condition is that they should be eager for the acquisition of grace and all intervening veils and obstructions should be removed so that they might become the recipients of the grace of perfect understanding. Their recognition of the Divine should not be limited to the affirmation that there should be a Creator of this universe, but they should be able to behold His countenance through having observed His great signs and should thus be able to see that that Creator truly exists ……. from the beginning it has been the way of God that irrespective of a person being good or bad or righteous or disobedient, or being the follower of a true faith or of a false one, he is shown true dreams or is vouchsafed true revelation so that his conjecture which derives from hearing of such matters may be converted into certainty and he may have a sample in his hands which should help his spiritual progress. The Wise Creator has so fashioned the human brain and has so invested it with the spiritual faculties that it can see some true dreams and can receive some true revelations.But these dreams and revelations are not an indication of any spiritual rank or greatness, but are only a sample of the way through which progress could be made.

    • MNb

      “If you want to see what keeps the planet warm, go outside on a sunny day and look up.”
      I do so every single day as I live in the tropical country Suriname.
      I didn’t see a god, eager or not. I saw a star called The Sun. I don’t think that star wants a personal relation with me. In fact it’s dangerous for our eyes to look directly at it.

  • Jerry Wickey

    I found one of your articles helpful, but it appears one must be very skeptical when considering your conclusions. Is the page author always so loose with his interpretations as with Deut. 32:8–9 where he translates Adam as gods?

    To be sure, the “Bible” is not a religious book like the Gita or the Vitas or the Upanishads. Those are religious and metaphysical. From a purely rational point of view they are gibberish. The Bible on the other hand is full of authorized genecidal wars, wildly unfair rewards for evil and punishments for good. It is hugely racist and sexist.

    No matter how much modern Christianity wants to paint it as a feel good, uplifting religious book, it is clearly not so. It is instead more like Newton’s “Mathematical Principles” And Einstein’s “Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies” (relativity) The Bible is a book which poses the structure of civilization in very sophisticated and technical terminology the likes of which any novice uneducated in the terminology would associate with gibberish. The only reason the average Joe doesn’t think of special relativity as gibberish, is because they are told otherwise. Yet most of the mathematicians who tell them such don’t understand it either. They are just faithful priests of Einstein.

    I have read them all and I can tell you this. The Bible is just as trustworthy as both Newton and Einstein. And a little bit more complicated. It certainly not intended to be read by most people. I’ll leave you with a quote from Jesus, who was not only Jewish, but every word He is recorded as saying is a quote from the Hebrew Prophets. Who are the very designers of the civilization in which we live today.

    “Rabbi why do you always speak in riddles?” To which the Master answered “If spoke plainly, then everyone would understand. What good could possibly come out of that? Read the prophet Isaiah. He explains this.” Matthew 13:10…

    Unlike religious books, which can be found in any self help section of a book store and really offer no more good advice then Grandma on a good day, the Bible is a sophisticated and rationally consistent explanation the way human civilization works. It is an ugly picture, a force of nature, but civilization can not work any other way. The complexity of it’s subject matter precludes religious application, yet its truth is as valid as gravity and space/time.

    • Pofarmer

      “I’ll leave you with a quote from Jesus, who was not only Jewish, but
      every word He is recorded as saying is a quote from the Hebrew Prophets.”

      That should be a clue.

      • Jerry Wickey

        Sounds like you have it all figured out. Tell me then. How do you explain the simultaneous time dilation of two frames of reference moving relative to each other? Because if you can’t figure that out, their is no chance you could figure out what the Hebrew prophets are saying.

        I’m sure, you’ll have no problem with Buddha. His stuff is simple.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Good comparison. I’ve always felt that near-light-speed travel was in the same genre as talking snakes.

          Or something.

        • MNb

          Sounds like you have it all figured out, given this:

          “I have read them all and I can tell you this.”
          Yup, then there is no need to argue anymore.

          “How do you explain the simultaneous time dilation of two frames of reference moving relative to each other?”
          Weidner and Sells have explained this in Elementary Modern Physics, Third Edition, 1980, so I guess they can figure out what the Hebrew prophets said. I just checked the book and W&S say nothing about them. I suppose this means that those prophets didn’t say anything worth considering.
          I agree with that conclusion.

        • Pofarmer

          I dunno, I suppose I’ll channel a little Thomas Paine. What is more likely, that an obscure Jewish Rabbi exactly parralleled the Hebrew prophets, or that later authors, with the words of the earlier prophets close at hand, put those words in an obscure Jewish rabbi’s mouth? Occams razor applies.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Is the page author always so loose with his interpretations as with Deut. 32:8–9 where he translates Adam as gods?

      I don’t read Hebrew, so I always go with experts’ translations. If it’s an unusual source, I cite the source. Where’s the problem?

      [The Bible] is instead more like Newton’s “Mathematical Principles” And Einstein’s “Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies” (relativity)

      That’s an unusual perspective.

      The Bible is just as trustworthy as both Newton and Einstein. And a little bit more complicated. It certainly not intended to be read by most people.

      So we should just trust a guide like you?

      I’ll leave you with a quote from Jesus, who was not only Jewish, but every word He is recorded as saying is a quote from the Hebrew Prophets.

      Jesus was just a puppet then? His ministry wasn’t really necessary since it had already been said before?

      Who are the very designers of the civilization in which we live today.

      I see nothing especially profound coming out of the Levant. What am I missing?

      “Rabbi why do you always speak in riddles?” To which the Master answered “If spoke plainly, then everyone would understand. What good could possibly come out of that? Read the prophet Isaiah. He explains this.” Matthew 13:10…

      So the New Testament contains fragments of a mystery religion. There were lots of mystery religions (Mithraism or Gnosticism, for example) at the time. Is this profound?

    • Jerry Wickey

      It is the fool who is surest of all.

      If you can’t think through simple logic problems, then you can’t possibly justify any confidence in your conclusions regarding complex problems.

      Anyone who isn’t willing to quantify their adaptation of rational method isn’t worth listening to. Mine is 4.6 http://www.jerrywickey.net/think/

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        We’re mostly idiots who think that unbelievable claims like the resurrection need to be supported by an enormous amount of evidence.

        I guess we’re fools who can’t think through simple logic problems. It’s a wonder that you’re here. But, before you leave to find smarter adversaries, give us some good reasons to believe your fairy tales.

        • Jerry Wickey

          Your approach won’t help you to understand the world around you. Do you understand the distinctions between self awareness, stream of conscienceless and sentience? Do you experience a full sentience or is your mind a deterministic product of biochemistry? If you can answer that, I might be able to give you exactly for what you ask.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Whaaa … ?? What kind of black magic is this? You used to be a girl and now you’re a guy? Stop playing head tricks on me!

          Nope, I’m sure I can’t answer that to your satisfaction.

          How about you? Can you respond to my request for good reasons to believe the Christian god exists?

        • Pofarmer

          Ok. I thought maybe it was just me on the sex change.

        • Jerry Wickey

          The discussion software used on this page incorrectly cropped the photo of my wife and myself so only my wife’s face. So I changed the photo.

          Was my answer not clear enough? If you can make the distinction between self awareness, stream of consciences and sentience, then the question of a supernatural component to the universe becomes obvious.

          Most people are unable to do this. It requires a working knowledge of artificial intelligence. One of my AI can be seen at the link I gave above. If you can’t make those distinctions, you have no chance of understanding the universe around you.

          By the Way, the term “Christian God” is ambiguous. Whom do you mean. A first century hippy named Jesus, an angry father god, or a disembodied voice that introduced Himself to Abraham?

          I am very skilled at critical thinking. You should learn the subject before you make a fool of yourself. If you haven’t already done so.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Was my answer not clear enough? If you can make the distinction between self awareness, stream of consciences and sentience, then the question of a supernatural component to the universe becomes obvious.

          Was my previous answer not clear enough? I’ll explain the distinction between these three ideas and say that I see nothing supernatural as a result. And then you will tell me that I’m doing it wrong.

          Let’s just cut to the chase: I’m doing it wrong.

          Most people are unable to do this. It requires a working knowledge of artificial intelligence.

          I did my senior project with Patrick Winston as my advisor. Nevertheless, I’m sure I won’t meet your tough standards.

          If you can’t make those distinctions, you have no chance of understanding the universe around you.

          How those ideas hold the key to the universe is beyond me. Luckily there are some on this planet who are blessed with the intelligence to understand.

          Whom do you mean. A first century hippy named Jesus, an angry father god, or a disembodied voice that introduced Himself to Abraham?

          All of the above?

          I am very skilled at critical thinking. You should learn the subject before you make a fool of yourself. If you haven’t already done so.

          Clearly I have entered a gunfight armed with a squirt gun.

          Now that we have the insults out of the way, answer my question. I asked you for good reasons to believe the Christian god exists.

        • Jerry Wickey

          There is no good reason to believe that the modern Christian god exists. He doesn’t, But the God which the Hebrew prophets and which Joshua of Nazareth describes does exist. Since the answer to your question is none, your question doesn’t specify how to proceed. So I’ll guess you might want me to give you a good reason to believe that latter statement.

          Both self awareness and streams of consciousness can be described rationally, therefore, they must be products of natural forces alone. Nothing supernatural about them. However, sentience can not be rationally described. I don’t know if you experience sentience or not. You probably don’t understand artificial intelligence well enough to determine if you experience sentience or not.

          Most who don’t incorrectly identify a component of their stream of consciousness as sentience. If you do not experience you can’t compare your experience with it and if you don’t understand the nature of intelligence will enough, you can’t determine if your experience is constrained by the laws of physics or not.

          However, if one does experience it and if one does understand intelligence will enough to identify it, then one can be empirically certain of events which are not constrained by the laws of physics. This is sufficient to provide good reason to give credibility to the sophisticated descriptions of God that the Hebrew prophets provide.

          While we or more correctly, you, scoff at the Hebrew prophets, they were smarter than we are. I mean this literally. Just since the Victorian era, 200-400 years ago, humanity has lost 14 IQ points http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/22/people-getting-dumber-human-intelligence-victoria-era_n_3293846.html

          There are other peer reviewed studies that suggest the loss is even greater from pre Greek classical times. So I am not surprised at the silly, and ill-considered, disregard for the most important literature that mankind has every possessed.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Since the answer to your question is none, your question doesn’t specify how to proceed.

          I can see how you’d be stymied. What could I possibly want to know, right?

          If you do not experience you can’t compare your experience with it and if you don’t understand the nature of intelligence will enough, you can’t determine if your experience is constrained by the laws of physics or not.

          I probably don’t experience whatever it is.

          However, if one does experience it and if one does understand intelligence will enough to identify it, then one can be empirically certain of events which are not constrained by the laws of physics. This is sufficient to provide good reason to give credibility to the sophisticated descriptions of God that the Hebrew prophets provide.

          Let me see if I have this clearly. Some get it and some don’t. Those of us who don’t (probably me included) will have to take the word of those who do that the laws of physics are transcended by something or other; therefore, the Old Testament god exists.

          This almost sounds like Gnosticism, the idea that a few select have the spark, and the rest of us plebes are little more than animated clay.

          Must be sweet being one of the chosen.

          While we or more correctly, you, scoff at the Hebrew prophets

          They were products of their time.

          Just since the Victorian era, 200-400 years ago, humanity has lost 14 IQ points

          Flynn Effect.

          I am not surprised at the silly, and ill-considered, disregard for the most important literature that mankind has every possessed.

          Tragically, I’m back here at square 1, wondering if there is any evidence for your god belief.

        • Jerry Wickey

          So where is the answer to my question?

          Can you demonstrate your capacity to think through even simple problems where all the facts are known? http://www.jerrywickey.net/think/

          If you can’t why do you have any confidence in your ability to think where some facts are unknown? I expect you to pass this off just like your “Flynn Effect” comment. Why don’t you explain your theory to those researchers instead of pester me. While you are busy knowing everything, some of out here are actually thinking about things.

          I won’t respond again until you demonstrate you are capable of thinking through simple problems. I need to see a rational index of less than 6 from you. Otherwise it is pointless.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          So where is the answer to my question?

          Your riddles about self awareness, streams of consciousness, and sentience? For a brilliant guy, you’re not very smart. How many times have I already thrown in the towel?

          Now it’s n + 1.

          Can you demonstrate your capacity to think through even simple problems where all the facts are known?

          Not to your satisfaction, I’ll bet.

          I expect you to pass this off just like your “Flynn Effect” comment.

          That’s your response? You give a data point arguing that IQs have gone down, and I give a well-evidenced one about them going up, and then this is your answer?

          Color me unconvinced.

          Why don’t you explain your theory to those researchers instead of pester me.

          Your patience is truly remarkable. But when I annoy you, a solution pops to mind.

          I won’t respond again until you demonstrate you are capable of thinking through simple problems. I need to see a rational index of less than 6 from you. Otherwise it is pointless.

          I fail.

  • DoctorDJ

    Horatio, what does your philosophy say about yesterday’s big announcement of cosmological inflation?
    “The nerve of those physicists, theorizing and then discovering evidence for a fundamental aspect of nature without our approval! Pardon me while I return to my navel-gazing…”

  • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

    This discussion seemed like a good opportunity to examine the rancor that scientists and New Atheists have toward philosophers, but nothing ever developed. I’m an atheist, and I wish there were a lot more philosophical depth to discussions of subjects like science and belief. Nonbelievers seem just as unsophisticated as Christians in these wars of words.

    It’s no surprise that the Nye-Ham debate was such a popular subject in the blogosphere, given the low level of philosophical understanding in the message board community. If we only know enough about the philosophy of science to deal with low-hanging fruit like Biblical Creationists, that’s a problem. Maybe our ability to shoot fish in a barrel is more important to us than the ability to acknowledge legitimate issues in the way we approach science. We can pretend that anyone who critiques science is a buffoon like Ham, and cry “God of the gaps!” instead of dealing with questions about lapses in our scientific knowledge, but I think we need to avoid being as dogmatic as the fundies we so love to debate.

    When Thomas Nagel wrote a mild critique of the current scientific paradigm a couple of years back, he wasn’t taken seriously. This was no creationist huckster or ID ideologue, this was a respected mainstream philosopher. He wasn’t recommending that we scrap evolutionary theory or legitimize faith healers; he was merely pointing out areas in which reductionism hadn’t benefited scientific inquiry. However, the scientific community and the atheist bloggerati dismissed Nagel out of hand, as if anyone with the audacity to criticize Big Science is by definition a fundie crackpot.

    I can’t help but think that the anti-philosophy bias among scientists and the New Atheists is at least partly a defense mechanism. We’re prone to idealize science and assume that it validates our nonbelief. But a deeper understanding of philosophy might make us recognize problems in the way we define our approach to knowledge instead of dismissing them.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I try to be humble in my evaluation of philosophy, but I continue to see lots of claims by philosophers but nothing to show. To me, philosophy is a smoke screen used by apologists when they’re under pressure—something to hide behind, not something to illuminate the subject.

      I can’t help but think that the anti-philosophy bias among scientists and the New Atheists is at least partly a defense mechanism.

      A defense against a valid philosophical argument for which they have no rebuttal?

    • truth_machine

      ” the rancor that scientists and New Atheists have toward philosophers”

      You’re confused. One of the “four atheist horsemen of the apocalypse” is a highly renowned professional philosopher, one was a philosopher/journalist, and one is a philosopher and later neuroscientist.

      ” Thomas Nagel wrote a mild critique of the current scientific paradigm a couple of years back, he wasn’t taken seriously.”

      Yes, he was … being refuted is not the same as not being taken seriously.

      Unfortunately, the naive and ignorant dismissal of philosophy seen in this article is common in the scientific community, but not particularly among atheists. Over at Pharyngula there are some “hard-headed” scientists who are disdainful about philosophy, but their comments don’t go unchallenged by the better educated members of that community.

      This article is unusual in it’s equation of philosophy with religious apologetics and it’s rejection of the former because of the absurdities of the latter. And someone who dismisses philosophy because he can’t find a list of the top ten breakthroughs is an ideologue who has no serious desire to understand what philosophy is and what its value is.

  • 90Lew90

    Hi. I see where you’re coming from and take your point entirely, but it sticks in my throat call William Lane Craig a philosopher. He simply isn’t. He’s a wiley, self-promoting Christian apologist masquerading as a philosopher, knowing full well that to do so gives him kudos he would otherwise lack. At best, let’s call him a theologian and leave it at that. It seems rather grossly unfair to serious philosophers to call Craig one.

    Hawking’s pronouncement that philosophy is dead provoked some very edifying responses. I’m sure you’re aware of them, one such is here: http://philosophynow.org/issues/82/Hawking_contra_Philosophy It is possible that theoretical physics in particular could be described as “philosophy”, but I don’t agree that if this is so, philosophy as traditionally understood is rendered a dead duck. In thinking about this I’ve come to the view that contemporary science has reinvigorated philosophy by giving it new meat to chew on. It could be that it is necessary for philosophers now to have some scientific training, along with the more classical parts. But I think too that there remains an important role for philosophers to play, particularly given the hurtling pace of modern science. An example which springs readily to my mind is that of the response to the frankly frightening bit of scientism Sam Harris proffered with The Moral Landscape. A lot of the very worthwhile reining-in of Harris from that idea came from philosophers.

    I also think that philosophers have a role in acting as expositors of science. Here I am thinking of, for example, Daniel Dennett, whose work on the implications of Darwinism I have found unsurpassed in his Darwin’s Dangerous Idea. I am also thinking of Patricia Churchland’s work on neuroscience, and of course, Bertrand Russell, who was brilliant at explaining the new physics when the scientists themselves (Heisenberg for example) weren’t very good at it.

    The above-mentioned are people I think of as philosophers worthy of the name. GE Moore, JL Mackie etc along with the above should not, I think, be mentioned in the same breath as William Lane Craig. I’ve been very glad of their contributions, which are not cursory, to science itself, but most of all to the public conversation about it and what its implications are, or may be. In this way I think their role is clear and important and I wouldn’t like to be without them.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      OK. It sounds like you’re judging his actions and I’m judging his diplomas. And that works.

      For my purposes, I often try to err on the side of benefiting my antagonist so I can’t be charged with character assassination or ad hominem arguments. If I can give him the benefit of the doubt and yet still make him look like a buffoon, we all win, don’t we?

      From my limited vantage point, scientists as occasional philosophers (simply due to the nature or category of their thoughts) makes sense, philosophers as philosophers makes some sense (critiquing ethics, for example, sounds great), and philosophers as scientists (WLC’s hobby) is insane.

      • 90Lew90

        Hi. Thanks again for getting back. It’s to your credit, I think, that Christians (well, the two that I’ve seen so far) feel able to come here and have it out without being subjected to the kind of boorishness I got extremely fed up with on Hemant Mehta’s blog. However frustrating believers can be, it’s always much more interesting when it stays temperate. I keep having to remind myself of that when there’s steam coming out of my ears!

        To be honest, I adopted my idea of a philosopher as being engaged in a serious inquiry after truth, or at least after knowledge, wherever his investigations may lead him, after reading Russell’s entry on Aquinas in The History of Western Philosophy. Russell was pretty glib about Aquinas, but I took to heart his criticism that Aquinas wasn’t a philosopher “in the true sense”. It’s worth a read if you’re interested.

        Mentioning ethicists had also crossed my mind when I wrote the above, but slipped it since I just rattled off my response.

        Anyway. I look forward to following this blog more in the future. I’d part by saying while I’m sure you’ve read Dennett, I’d highly recommend Churchland (‘Brain Trust’ and ‘Brain-Wise’). The only neuroscientist I’ve come across who can actually write is VS Ramachandran, but even at that, the latter writes about what neuroscientists are *doing*, while Churchland writes about what the implications of that science are for us now and for what we’ve traditionally been given to believe, not least by past philosophers. For me it makes for very satisfying, stimulating reading.

        Best, Lew