Two philosophers walk into a bar…

This is primarily a response to commenters asking for my own opinion on the origin of the universe.  If this is not your bag, I beg your patience, and suggest you skip on to Crommunist’s and Edwin’s most excellent discussions.

This is written in two parts. First, I’m going to outline the general philosophical discussion on the origin of the universe. This is going to be long. Following that, I’ll express an opinion.

I’m going to begin with Aristotle, and to begin with the three classical laws of logic. You may, of course, disagree with these laws, or disagree that they apply, or whatever the hell you want. That’s fine. Not all Philosophers are committed to these laws. I am, however, not a logician. These rules are the logic that underpins the rest of this essay. I’ll then outline his original position, and how that position has been generalised (and wielded by the religious).

Following that: Kant. Some of you may be giving up on this already. I’d encourage you to bear with me, as I’m going to keep it simple. (Meanwhile, a Philosophy Professor at my Alma Mater will be dying of laughter that I’m going to try to explain Kant to people, should he get wind of this)

Finally, my position will follow, and I’ll rephrase/rehash Krauss’s error in the context of Aristotle and Kant. If all that sounds like a good time, keep reading. I can totally understand if it doesn’t.

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In Defence of Abused Fallacies

Y’know, if you don’t think that a horse is defined as such due to some innate form of ‘horseness’, then you should go read some Aristotle.*

If you don’t think that Evolution has any basis in reality, then Darwin has some things to tell you.

If you think that we can’t know anything at all about the origin of the universe, then you should listen to Victor Stenger.

I’m appealing to authority here? Well… Yes, I am. And this is not a problem at all. Let me break it down for you…

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Science vs Philosophy

Recently, a number of people have opened their mouth to deride Philosophy. Notably, they tend to be people who are well-placed academics such as Krauss and Dawkins. Likewise, Atheistlogic has stuck their oar in too, though much more articulately. Atheistlogic spells out the general objection quite well, I think, so I’m going to focus on their comments as a stepping off point.

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The Essentials of our movement

[This is written by Brian. And I’m glad to be writing again. :)

Feel free to violently disagree. ;) ]

DJ Grothe and his ambivalent stance regarding sexual harrassment. Dawkins and his ‘Dear Muslima’ letter. Penn and… well, frankly, everything. All of these freethinkers and atheists and skeptics taking a wrong turn here… They must be bad freethinkers and atheists and skeptics. Right…? [See links at the end of post for background info]

I am anti-religion. That, I think, could be said of me without any fear of contradiction. I am anti-religion because it’s false and unsupported by the evidence. I am anti-religion because (generally speaking) religions are anti-woman, anti-homosexual, anti-sex, anti-animal, and anti-[pretty much anything that takes power away from the people running the religion]. But these are the surface reasons, not the core. As bad as these things are, these are secondary illnesses, not the primary disease. The problem?

Essentialism.

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Classic Crommunist: Divine Mercy – An Allegory

My band is debuting our new drummer tonight, and we were getting ready for the show. As a result, I had no time or energy to write something new today. However, I’ve been looking for an excuse to re-post the following story, which I think is among my better pieces of work. Once again, I dabble in fiction for illustrative purposes. Hope you enjoy!

Gary woke with no memory of what had happened. Slowly, fighting the urge to retch, he opened his eyes. He immediately regretted doing so, as daggers of light from a single exposed overhead lightbulb pierced through his half-lidded vision and ignited the cobwebs in his head. Raising a hand to block the offending rays, Gary became aware that he was lying naked on a hard concrete floor in a bare room. A grim-looking man with unfamiliar features stood by a solid-looking metal door. Seeing that Gary was awake, the man grunted, heaved the door open, and walked into the hallway outside, letting the door slam behind him.

“Hello?” Gary called querulously. There was no answer. Staggering to his feet, Gary steadied himself against the cold concrete wall and shook his head, trying to dispel the last of his confusion. He lurched toward the door on unsteady feet and wrenched on the knob, to no avail. Gary slammed his open palm against the door and heard a dull boom sound that was quickly absorbed into the walls and high ceiling. “Hello!” he called again “Let me out of here!”

His hand slapped the door again, eliciting the same sound and lack of response from anyone who might be listening. Gary tugged against the knob again then, his small reserve of energy spent, slumped back to the floor. Frantically, he searched his memory hoping to reveal some clue of where he was, how he had arrived there, and who or what he might have offended to deserve such treatment. Suddenly, the door  made a sharp *click* and the knob turned. Gary scrambled to his feet and backed away from the door, imagining that he might be able to make a dash through the portal once whoever was on the other side opened it. [Read more…]

Rhetorical questions: of rocks and Jell-O

So this past weekend was the Reason Rally, where atheists from all over the United States gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to make a powerful political point: atheists exist and we are paying attention to politics. The kind of obsequious Jesus-based pandering that is the lifeblood of American democracy is at a particular peak, which makes more baffling the claims of Christians to be some kind of oppressed minority who is forbidden from practicing their faith by the evil secularist government forces headed by secular Muslim socialist Caliph Barack Obama (I am trying to distill a bunch of crazy into one sentence, so I am making this parenthetical thought extra-long in order to not overload the ratio of crazy:comprehensible… almost there… how are all of you doing?).

I didn’t go to the Reason Rally, but I was overjoyed to see a segment on MSNBC’s Up! With Chris Hayes where an all-atheist panel was assembled to discuss some of the rally’s major issues. I was quite impressed with the panel’s mere existence, because it stands in sharp contrast to the usual practice of having a lone atheist forced to contend with one or more idiots presenting “the other side” uncritically. The atheist’s time is then consumed almost entirely in distractions, forced to explain what atheism is, the difference between criticism of belief vs. believers, and in some cases having to explain grade 6 science to grown adults. This panel was different though; everyone (including the host) was an atheist, and thus could discuss the vagaries of the divergent viewpoints within organized atheism without having to stop every five seconds and explain why there are still monkeys.

I enjoyed watching the show, despite having a few objections (that are not really worth going into), and thought it was quite a coup for a nationally broadcast program to put that many atheists on camera at once. But then I read this: [Read more…]

The Watchmaker Analogy: not an argument

The ‘watchmaker analogy‘ has been around for quite some time (about 209ish years by my count), and it was refuted shortly after it’s explication (in fact, Paley was refuted by Hume before Paley was born). Several folk have gone after it, in a variety of ways but the damned thing just keeps showing up. To be fair, it’s not that the argument won’t die, it’s that people ignorant of it’s failure simply won’t stop trotting it out, as if restating it over and over again somehow means that the previous refutations didn’t happen.

Quite recently, Fazale Rana (a member of Reasons to Believe) directed me to his claim that “Kai ABC Proteins Re-invigorate the Watchmaker Argument for God’s Existence” with the invitation to ‘explain how is reasoning is faulty’.

Ask and thou shalt receive.

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Vaccines and the State

Here’s a report from Australia:

“The Australian government has decided to deprive parents of their tax benefits if they do not immunise their children against diseases.

Some families could lose over $2,000 per a child. And while the benefits of vaccination, for individual children, and for the population, far outweigh any risks, some parents question the policy, and do not like money coming into the equation.”

I think it’s trivial to say that this is a case of a government interfering in the choices of a family. Whether this interference is warranted, however… Does the government of a country have the right to financially penalise a family for making choices that don’t directly affect anyone else?

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Science says we should blame the victims

Let’s face facts, people: if you get assaulted, or worse, it’s your fault. You shouldn’t have been walking in that area. You shouldn’t have been out at night. You shouldn’t have been alone. You shouldn’t have worn that dress or those shoes, or been wearing such an expensive watch/handbag/ribbon.

I mean, there are studies to demonstrate these things.

You can, of course, ignore this information. But once you know that certain behaviours increase your risk, then choosing to express that particular behaviour… Well… That’s all on you.

Right?

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Wrong per se

So this might be a first, but I am hoping to crowdsource some resolution on this topic. Last week I posted about the clear evil that I saw in abortion for sex selection. I thought for sure that the readership would join me in condemning such a barbaric and nakedly misogynistic practice.

What I got instead was a surprising amount of tacit “aww shucks” support for the right of someone to choose to abort a pregnancy because the child is female. Nobody thought it was a good idea, but there were very few people who gave it the kind of blanket condemnation that I had initially approached it with.

This wouldn’t ordinarily be a problem for me. After all, any given post might yield a few or a lot of dissenting opinions. I consider it a mark of honour that I have engaged, intelligent and thoughtful readers who may disagree with me on any number of topics. It forces me to become better at defending my ideas, or to learn to change my ideas in places where it is clear that I am wrong. [Read more…]