Just a few articles for you guys this week, enjoy!
Here Feser challenges Coyne and in a small part MacDonald on issues of theology. This is a common charge (not giving the arguments or evidence a “fair go“, which generally digresses into ad hominem) levelled at atheists and I can understand it, in theory at least. Theists believe (however rightly or wrongly) they have a stong case for the existence of God (I am of course talking about those that blog and write books on the subject, your average believer may take a different position, a more emotive one), they see the arguments (and evidence?) as convincing and they think atheists are being dismissive (which in a lot of cases they are) to such. The important question to bridge the gap is, why are they being dismissive? The popular or “Gnu atheists” like Coyne, Myers et al, are tired of religion, they’re tired of the endless fallacious arguments (to use expressions they do), and they don’t respect them. I can see why this shorthand bothers a world-class thinker like Freser and it’s a beef a lot of people have with the “Gnu atheism“, which is understandable. It’s not high-class philosophy, but that’s also the point, they would say they don’t have respect for bad ideas, for dangerous beliefs which in turn encourages them to be dismissive, to parody. The take home point is, their dismissiveness comes from actually having spent time looking at the evidence, and the arguments, found them (sometimes) embarrassingly wanting and they now parody and dismiss religion and religious arguments. Hence we come back to the problem, even many atheists have with the “Gnu atheism“, it alienates, it causes believers to take a more aggressive tone, and at the end of the day does this help the cause? Well that’s a long discussion for another post (on which side I stand I have yet to determine, I like strong voices, I understand we have need of them to reach audiences, are they a necessary evil? Hard to say!). Below is Coyne’s response.
Coyne and Feser are having at each other it seems, which makes for good reading for the rest us. But to continue my point, it does polarize people. Much like John Loftus’ rhetoric, his message perhaps get’s lost in the name calling and aggressiveness, which isn’t to say theists don’t do the same, they do. I guess at the end it gives both sides a range of voices to listen to, and to learn from which I guess isn’t bad.
More on Determinism.
An interesting article from Everist. For the most part I agree, I guess, and I’m perfectly willing to admit I’ve missed his point, but I’ll try to address what problems I see anyway. It seems first up that he’s mischaracterized the definition of atheism as being only in the strong sense. The problem is that even in that strong sense, there is not necessarily a burden of proof in the sense he discusses. For an atheist to say “I believe there is no God” is not to say (or rather they shouldn’t say) “because I believe there is no God, it is a fact there is not one“. The atheist can fallibalistically and reasonably hold that position based on their investigation into the evidence they have seen (and have been presented with). It’s not a claim that they should say to the world is a reality that is absolutely true, but rather the strong atheist believes in the non-existence of God because no good evidence or argument has been presented to believe in one. To paraphrase Malcolm Murray, 2010: (in regards to atheists) we don’t see god, we don’t feel god, we don’t hear god, we don’t smell god, we don’t taste god and any effects that happen in the world can be explained without recourse to god, those reasons are enough for the strong atheist. What about the weak atheist who makes no such claim? They have a burden of proof and it is somewhat similar to the strong atheists in the sense that, to maintain their weak atheist position as justified a weak atheist has to, to paraphrase Martin, 1990: (assuming God-talk is meaningful) undermine the epistemic and beneficial reasons to believe in god. So, the point I’m getting at is, the atheists he is discussing are wrong, above is how an atheist should discuss their atheism (at least in my understanding). And yes, in agreement with Everist none of the above is an ontological objection to the god issue, but rather an epistemic one to the soundness of premises, but it is one that comes up as atheists are often told just what label they have (as in this very article), and that their position is internally inconsistent. Sometime a defense of said position is warranted, aside from the issue of ontology.
It’s stories like this that make it hard for me to accept Everist when he makes the claim in the comments section of his above article that atheists are “bitter, angry, people“, seems to me, there’s enough bitter and angry to go around.
Again, an example people other than atheists who are bitter and angry.
A fish that uses tools? Awesome!
I find the idea that we don’t have free will in the “libertarian” sense, but that it is a perceptual construct we come to think of as real, even if it technically doesn’t exist, interesting (which was Dennett’s thesis in Freedom Evolves), and seems to be what MacDonald (see MacDonalds original post here and more discussion here) is arguing for. Is there a distinction without a difference? If we perceive free will to be real, then for our practical purposes it is real, however if we discover that determinism is true in the “we don’t have free will” sense then as Coyne discusses in the blog, our types of punishment become wildly inappropriate, hence we have a real world example why simply pretending (or worded differently, “accepting our perception”) to have free will can be detrimental.
Cephalopod evolution, exciting for some, boring for others, offensive still to more…
Obviously we’re all for this?
An interesting idea I’ve been hearing more and more of lately, obviously this is in response to a book, but still it’s an interesting thought, that people would willingly lie to promote the Christian faith. When discussing this stuff with Christians (including my girlfriend) I get a sense of incredulity, that they would think it’s a case of “not knowing better” or not an intentional act of lying by the person (whomever it might be). Which makes me think, it’s either shoddy scholarship or lying. When you’re talking about scholarly books published and public voices, which is the preferrable option?
An interesting post, and I can see his point. It’s easy to forget sometimes, spending so much time looking at this stuff, that most of the people you end up emulating are merely bloggers just like yourself.
I don’t understand what theists are thinking when they push this stuff? I mean I know they want the world Christian, but so do Muslims, and how would they react, if this was a Muslim site pushing a Muslim agenda in the public sphere? Keeping religion out of the government means we all get freedoms to be whatever religion we want, how long would a Muslims (or atheists) rights be respected in a Christian government? Of course it’s hard to say, but the point is there I hope, for all to see.
I might do a post on this issue, as it’s fascinating to me. Obviously the religious are going to fall on the other side of the issue (and ironically line up with the feminist), but that’s fine, disagreements are natural and healthy.
As if on call John Danaher puts this up… he’s a really great writer and should be chained to a desk until a book is created (hint, hint John). He continues below.
Sam Harris’ response to Jerry Coyne. However you feel about the guy, he has a way with words.
This is also another issue I want to do an investigation on, as it’s interesting to me. The shape of societies interest as users and also creating prohibitions (remember before you judge, caffeine is a drug), is fascinating. This article touches on some of the core issues of determinism, about drug users being “sick” not “criminals” that locking them up is not the way to treat an addiction. Some interesting thoughts, regardless of where you stand on the issue of legalisation.
Thanks to Ophelia Benson for this and the next 4 articles below.
It’s been said the catholic church is a criminal organisation, hard not to agree with reports like this…
The protection of bigotry?
MacDonald defends Dawkins or better phrased takes apart a critic of his.
This MacDonald’s central issue over at his blog, and much like abortion, I have my opinions on assisted dying, but have not really researched it enough to publicly state them. Regardless here is MacDonald, doing his thing.
Martin M. (1990). Atheism: A Philosophical Justification. Philadelphia. Temple University Press. Pp- 38.
Murray M. (2010). The Atheist’s Primer. Ontario, Canada. Broadview Press. Pp-24-25.