How should one respond to the Argument from Contingency?

Consider the Argument from Contingency: 1. All contingent facts, including the existence of our universe (i.e. the continuous space-time region that we inhabit), have an explanation. 2. The conjunct of all of the contingent facts is itself a contingent fact. 3. Therefore, there is an explanation of the conjunct of all of the contingent facts. 4. The explanation of the conjunct of all of the contingent facts cannot itself be contingent. 5. Therefore, the explanation of the conjunct of all of the contingent facts must be a necessary fact. 6. Therefore, there exists a necessary entity that explains all of the contingent facts, including the existence of our universe. We are supposed to conclude from this that God exists. This is presumably because God, as a necessarily existent being, is…Read More

Thus Spake Matt Sheedy: Analytic Philosophy, Critical Theory, and the Atheism/Theism Discourse

The arguments presented in the film God’s Not Dead – and the sort of Christian apologetics with which it is associated (especially actor Kevin Sorbo’s public comments on Trunews) – are intellectually impotent. It is not difficult to find negative reviews from Christian apologists, who see their own cause undermined by such dreck (Randall Rauser, for example, states that he was “outraged” and that the film is “reprehensible”). I can think of only one reason for engaging with the film or Kevin Sorbo from an intellectual perspective: both Kevin Sorbo and the film express ideas popular among a particular demographic of evangelical Christians. That set of ideas – that atheists secretly know God exists, that secular moral realism is an impossibility, that life without God is meaningless, and that atheists…Read More

Aamer Rahman describes what reverse racism would actually look like More

Depression and David Hume

According to David Hume, previous thinkers had misunderstood the relationship between action and emotion (or what he called 'passion'). While previous thinkers declared that logic and rationality alone can compel action (we can act rationally), Hume argued that only the passions were intrinsically motivating (so that, as he famously declared, reason is the slave of the passions). You can recognize the truth of any proposition whatsoever, but it will never compel you to action. Hume would tell us that Vulcans -- people without any emotions whatsoever -- would never actually be compelled to action. There would be no motivation to learn more, to be more logical, to suppress one's emotions, to help others, to explore, to discover new things, or to do anything at all because an individual void of…Read More

Guest Post: "Memes and Cultural Evolution" by Simon Frankel Pratt

This post originally appeared on Simon Said. Many people are familiar with the concept of the ‘meme': units of cultural material that are transmitted throughout populations and evolve in a manner somewhat analogous to genes. Richard Dawkins coined the term and the general idea [1], prompting some measure of scientific activity, including a journal [2], devoted to the study of memetics. However, memes and memetics never gained much traction amongst social scientists and philosophers, and ‘meme theory’ currently enjoys essentially no credibility as a scientific theory. In this post, I will explain why that is, and I will point to some alternative, sounder approaches to thinking about and studying the way knowledge and practice diffuse and evolve throughout societies . Evolutionary epistemology and social science seem to go well together.…Read More

Why 100 Students Were Right About Sue Blackmore

Sue Blackmore's article about her recent mishap in Oxford, where a large number of students walked out of a lecture she was giving, is rather ironic because she wrote another article -- in 2010 -- where she came close to seeing why her present view is not only false but offensive. Let me explain. For those who don't know, Blackmore recently explained to a group of teenagers at the Oxford Royale Academy that religions are "viruses of the mind" and that they have (apparently) uniformly negative consequences. A large number of teenagers (who she claims were mostly Muslims) walked out. I don't blame them. See her article here. The notion that religions are viruses is an accurate metaphor in a very restricted sense, but it is more often misunderstood than…Read More

Ideology, Culture, and Old Habits

In my previous post, I discussed briefly how the evangelical focus on conversion experiences can cause problems for post-evangelicals when they try to join other groups.  An additional difficulty with this transition is that so much of evangelicalism is based on persuasion.  People who grow up in this culture are taught from a young age that a major part of their faith entails persuading others to join it.  Often, the ability, or at least attempt, to perform this type of persuasion is used as a litmus test of one’s spiritual health or sincerity.  Apart from the psychological effect of being in a group that has a singular goal and polices commitment to that goal, this also causes people in this culture to build their idea of social responsibility and even…Read More

No, Greg Brahe, I do not want to discuss chivalry with you

I recently posted on my wall that chivalry is sexist and paternalistic and that men should not act chivalrous. In saying this, I do not mean that men should never hold open doors for women or that heterosexual men should never pay for their date's meal. Instead, what I mean is that chivalry -- the idea that there are particular actions and roles which men and women should fulfill in virtue of their gender -- is sexist and that, often, this involves illegitimate expectations being placed on women (for example, that women are somehow obligated to sexual activity because their meal was previously paid for). There were two reactions which this post received. My female friends were very close to consensus in agreement and the only disagreement was over some…Read More

A Priest, a Physiologist, and a Baron... and, no, it's not a joke

My talk at the 2014 Secular Student Alliance East Coast meeting has been placed online. You can watch my talk below: More

"Evidence, Theism and Naturalism" roundtable discussion More