Archives for January 2009

Objectivity and Moral Viewpoints

It seems to me that selection of a moral point of view is similar to selection of a car to buy. There is no such thing as "the right car to buy", although there are probably lots of "the wrong cars to buy." Selection of a car is neither a purely subjective matter, nor is it a purely rational and objective matter. Selection of a moral point of view is also neither a purely subjective matter, nor a purely rational and objective matter.There are reasonable criteria that can and should be … [Read more...]

UN vs free speech again

Johann Hari has an opinion piece in The Independent, "Why should I respect these oppressive religions?".I don't seriously disagree with anything in it. But then, maybe that is precisely the problem. I live and work in an academic environment, where I take free discussion for granted. I'm a fully paid-up member of the Argumentative Bastards Union. I have an unhealthy obsession with religion, from the perspective of a nonbeliever who constantly asks what the *&^%$#@ is going on with … [Read more...]

Stupid Philosopher Tricks

Taner is going to love this one. I've made a short list of some of the stupidest things philosophers have said over the millennia. Each of these claims has been seriously maintained by one or more major philosophers (in parentheses). Each is not only false, but obviously so. As the late philosophical iconoclast and maverick (if John McCain has not ruined this word) D.C. Stove used to ask: What is wrong with our thoughts? 1) Matter does not exist.(Berkeley)2) Atheists are less trustworthy than … [Read more...]

Jerry Coyne on science and religion

Jerry Coyne, the evolutionary biologist, has a very good book review article on science and religion, "Seeing and Believing," in The New Republic. … [Read more...]

A cynic’s definition of morality

Our moral lives are rooted in our interests and our agreements. If we want to explain our moral lives, from gut-level moral perceptions to moral discourse intended to persuade others and ourselves, we need not go beyond very thisworldly interests and agreements. Hence morality is, broadly speaking, politics.If morality is politics, it is ugly. It is not true that there are moral truths all rational agents must agree upon. This does not mean anything goes. But quite a lot things can go. Not every … [Read more...]

The Trilemma – How Old? part 2

I have not been able, so far, to find any references prior to the 1800s to a Latin sentence presenting a dilemma (e.g. aut deus aut homo non bonus - either God or a bad man) that could have been the original basis for the Trilemma. Because of this, I am skeptical that the Latin statement of the dilemma is of medieval or ancient origin. I don't know the origin of the Trilemma, but I have a plausible hypothesis about how it came to be.First, a very brief summary of historical apologetics, … [Read more...]

Naturalism and Objectively Horrifying Evils

A serious and thoughtful objection against metaphysical naturalism is that it cannot provide a basis for some of our deepest and most intuitive moral judgments. If so, a metaphysical naturalist could bite the bullet and say “so much for our deepest and most intuitive moral judgments!” Still, if this consequence could be avoided, it would remove a major stumbling-block for those who might otherwise view atheism as plausible. The argument is clearly stated by Alvin Plantinga. He first notes that th … [Read more...]

Evolution leads to totalitarianism?

Conservative Jewish writer and intelligent-design supporter David Klinghoffer writes on the Discover Institute's ID blog, arguing that both Hitler and Stalin's versions of totalitarianism were inspired by Darwin. Apparently, "The Soviet state was, then, an experiment in applied Darwinism." Klinghoffer's main theme is that without the restraint due to recognition of God's higher laws, secular people are likely to go on a rampage.Asinine, yes, though it's a claim that's popular among many … [Read more...]