Why Be Skeptical?

According to my old American Heritage Dictionary (2nd College edition, 1982), a “skeptic” is a person “who instinctively or habitually doubts, questions, or disagrees with assertions or generally accepted conclusions.”  This seems to come close to what I have in mind when I support the view that students should be taught to be skeptical as a part of teaching students to become critical thinkers.However, this definition is a bit too weak.  Someone who only questioned “assertions” or “conclusio … [Read more...]

Link: Why Science Cannot Explain Why Anything At All Exists by Luke Barnes

Physicist and cosmologist Luke Barnes wrote an interesting post in his blog a while ago about why science cannot explain why anything at all exists. I'm inclined to agree with him. Here is how he summarizes his own argument in his own words. A: The state of physics at any time can be (roughly) summarised by three things.1. A statement about what the fundamental constituents of physical reality are and what their properties are. 2. A set of mathematical equations describing how these … [Read more...]

One Problem with Swinburne’s Case for God – Part 2

In a previous post I pointed out three different problems related to the third argument in Richard Swinburne's systematic case for the existence of God.  The third argument is the final argument of his arguments from the nature of the universe.  It is his Teleological Argument from Spatial Order (hereafter: TASO):(e3) There is a complex physical universe that is governed by simple natural laws and the values of the constants of the laws and of the variables of the universe’s initial cond … [Read more...]

Did God Create Nuclear Weapons?

Naive View

Christians and other believers in God often say, 'God created everything.'  If we take this literally, as a young child would do, we might start thinking of some objections or possible counterexamples: 'Did God create nuclear weapons?' 'Did God create the ebola virus?' etc.  The doctrine of divine creation leads quickly to the problem of evil.A common response to such an idea would be to say that 'God created humans, and it was humans who created nuclear weapons--not God.'  So, God is one … [Read more...]

Critical Thinking and Skepticism – Part 2

Based on a quick review of Michael Shermer's key statements about skepticism (A Brief Introduction, and  A Skeptical Manifesto)  there appear to be at least two general principles of rational skepticism:GP1. Be open-minded, not closed-minded or dogmatic.GP2. Be discriminating about believing claims, theories, and viewpoints, not gullible and credulous.In my previous post on this subject (Critical Thinking and Skepticism), I argued that Critical Thinking provides a necessary framework … [Read more...]

Critical Thinking and Skepticism

In a recent post advocating the end of Philosophy of Religion, John Loftus commented that PoR classes are often taught with the primary goal of teaching students to think critically,  and he objected that "Teaching students to be critical thinkers is very important but teaching them to have a skeptical disposition is more important."I would argue, however, that (a) skepticism is good and rational only to the extent that it arises out of critical thinking and conforms to the principles and sta … [Read more...]

One Problem with Swinburne’s Case for God

In The Existence of God (2nd edition, hereafter: EOG), Richard Swinburne lays out a systematic cumulative case for the claim that it is more likely than not that God exists.I have a specific objection to the third argument in this case, but I believe this objection throws a monkey wrench into the works, and creates a serious problem for the case as a whole.To understand my objection, it is important to understand the general logical structure of Swinburne’s case for the existence of God. … [Read more...]

Evan Fales: Deepak Chopra’s $1M Prize is a Publicity Stunt

(This is a guest post by Evan Fales about Deepak Chopra's recent challenge to the new atheists.)This is a publicity stunt.  He's smart enough to have picked what may be the biggest unsolved puzzle for naturalism.  At the same time, his challenge is seriously vague in its wording.  What exactly does he mean by 'biological basis'?  Would an invariant neurological correlate of a mental event-type do?  A neurological cause?  Does he need identity?  Supervenience?  What counts as a “valid” scienti … [Read more...]