Monday, April 25, 2011

Why do scientists believe or disbelieve?

The same reason as everyone else.
"In Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Think, Rice University sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund comes at this question by means of a statistical survey. Between 2005 and 2008, Ecklund and her associates randomly selected researchers from across seven natural and social science disciplines at twenty-one elite U.S. research universities. . . . Ecklund concludes from her research that most scientists do not become irreligious as a consequence of their becoming scientists. 'Rather, their reasons for unbelief mirror the circumstances in which other Americans find themselves: they were not raised in a religious home; they have had bad experiences with religion; they disapprove of God or see God as too changeable.' The disproportionately high percentage of nonbelievers among scientists (as compared to the general population) would appear to be the result of self-selection: the irreligious seem more likely to become scientists in the first place."

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Philosophers debate abortion

Good luck finding another debate on abortion this clear, friendly and free of ideological murkiness.

Don Marquis and Michael Tooley (from Philosophy TV)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Entry into Jerusalem

(H/T: Richard Beck)

Check this out for more impressions on this scene.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Glenn Peoples reviews the Craig/Harris debate

Monday, April 11, 2011

Blomberg's idea of hell

Sunday, April 10, 2011

On the fallacy of Ad Ignorantiam

I've been enjoying the Fallacy Friday series over at Matt and Maddy's blog.  Matt's post on arguing from ignorance was very insightful.  Be sure to check it out.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

William Lane Craig versus Sam Harris - Part 1 of 9

Sunday, April 03, 2011

An Intro to the Philosophy of Religion, Ch. 7 (Religion and Science)

[Rough Draft - comments welcome]

Rea and Murray begin by discussing three views on science and religion.  The inevitable conflict view maintains that scientific and religious claims are at odds, perhaps even down to the core.  Supporters of this view often define science and religion problematically.  For instance, when one claims that science alone can deliver justified beliefs about the natural world, they are making a claim about the natural world that is either unjustified or self-refuting.  Religion is likewise ill-defined as the claim that justified beliefs about the natural world come from divine revelation.

The independence view maintains that science and religion operate in two separate domains.  These two domains might be characterized as the natural and supernatural, or else sense experiences and religious experiences.  But what are we to make of the Christian who claims that Jesus healed a blind man?  This seems to be a religious claim about the natural world.

The potential conflict view simply examines the conflict on a case-by-case basis.  What are the religious believer's options when they balance conflicting evidence?
i. Reject their religion
ii. Reject their interpretation of the religious data
iii. Reject the evidence of their senses
iv. Reject their interpretation of the sense data
Rea and Murray don't think there is a straightforward rule for which of these options applies in a given case.  They continue to discuss some important cases of religion-science conflict.

Science and the Credibility of Miracles
Hume famously argued that justified beliefs about miracles were impossible.  But what are miracles?  Hume says, "a transgression of a law of nature by a particular volition of the deity, or by the interposition of some invisible agent."

The balance of evidence argument
Since Hume defines laws via repeated sensory experience, he argues that, when confronted with a miraculous experience or claim, a person should never accept them as valid.  The reason is that, by definition, the person has better evidence for the law (repeated experience) than he does for an isolated miraculous experience (or claim).  And of course, rational people should attune their beliefs in accordance with the weight of the evidence.

But is it true that an isolated person experience or testimonial claim is always outweighed repeated past experience?  It seems not.  Even the most well-confirmed scientific theories are subject to refutation by new evidence.  And this can happen after years of confirmation by repeatable experiments. [1]

The Wrong Laws Argument
This argument is very similar to the previous one, accept that it doesn't claim the person to reject miracles, instead it concludes that the person might be mistaken about the laws of nature.  In other words, which is more likely: that I'm mistaken about the laws of nature, or that the laws of nature have been transgressed?

The Purely Anomalous Event Argument
Ockham's razor dicates positing no more explanatory entities than necessary.  Hume thinks it follows that we would be better to just say the supposed miraculous event is uncaused than caused by a supernatural agent.  Of course, imagine standing on the banks of the Red Sea and watching these events unfold (in light of your prior knowledge about Moses and his claims).  It seems wrong to say that you should accept the parting of the Rea Sea as simply uncaused.

Humean-style arguments for the impossibility of miracles
Hume defines a law of nature as a true universal generalization, in other words, a statement about the way things always happen.  So if it were shown that a "miracle" occurred, all this would do is invalidate the law of nature.  It wouldn't serve to show that a miracle had "broken" the law, only served to invalidate it.  Thus, miracles--when defined as transgressions of the laws of nature--are impossible.  Rea and Murray simply respond by giving a better definition for a miracle: "an event (ultimately) caused by God that cannot be accounted for by the natural powers of natural substances alone."

1 See Alan Hajek's paper entitled, "Are miracles chimerical?"

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Eric Reitan lectures on his latest book

Dr. Eric Reitan author of "Is God a Delusion?" lectures at the University of Tulsa on September 22, 2009 from James P on Vimeo.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Philosophy of Religion Articles - PDF Carnival I

An assortment of articles that I've encountered, though probably not read yet, over the last month.
  1. Some Recent Progress on the Cosmological Argument by Alexander Pruss.
  2. (A wonderfully concise account of) Possible Worlds by Peter van Inwagen
  3. A New Look at the Cosmological Argument, by Robert Koons
  4. A New Cosmological Argument, by Alexander Pruss and Richard Gale
  5. A new cosmological argument undone, by Michael Almeida and Neal Judisch
  6. How Successful is Naturalism?, by Michael Rea
  7. Philosophical Themes from C.S. Lewis, by Steven Lovell
  8. God Eternal and Paul Helm, by Richard Gale
  9. Graham Oppy on the Kalam Cosmological Argument, by William Lane Craig
  10. Asking God, by Paul Helm
  11. The Argument from Reason (1998), by Victor Reppert
  12. Eternal Damnation and Blessed Ignorance, by Eric Reitan