Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Those damn extremists.

Brandon over at Siris has an interesting reference regarding Martin Luther King on extremism. It helps to build a thought I've had for a while now: Ranting against "extremism", as if extremism itself were the problem, is nonsense. Especially in America, a country founded by extremists. Ones who were willing to kill over taxes, no less.

And of course, there's Martin Luther King himself. You know, praised up and down nowadays, but frankly at the time he was a real pain in the ass. That's the point of him, you know, but somehow one gets the impression that MLK mostly gave stirring speeches and somehow that changed everything. The whole "dragged away kicking and screaming by police, when they weren't having firehoses turned on them" part gets downplayed heavily. I suspect some people think only "the bad ones" did that.

I guess that's the lesson. People, even "moderates", don't hate extremists. They often love them. They just call them something else.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Monday, September 19, 2011

Faith tradition?

What kind of a person describes their religious beliefs as their "faith tradition"? Do they also describe their spouse as "life partner"?

Why are more and more people talking like corporate and government press releases in casual conversation?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Vox Day versus Dominic

So we're on to part two now. And all I can say is, "Huh."

On the one hand, I liked that Vox brought up the general scope of what qualifies as God and gods, and how atheists are committed to rejecting the existence of all of the above. On the other hand, Vox goes by a dictionary definition that identifies as key that gods are 'beyond nature' (supernatural), whereas my reply is 'What is and isn't natural, particularly with regard to gods, is a tremendous mess that cannot be sorted out easily, if at all'.

Dominic, meanwhile, just seems to be performing terribly. For one thing, he basically entered the debate conceding in essence that if one believes that causality always holds, one ends up at theism automatically - so his response is to question causality. That should have ended the debate then and there, since giving up on causality is giving up on science and embracing absurdity (DS seems to think this is okay, if he lets only a 'little bit' of acausality enter the picture - you know, because you can attach rules to acausality).

Someone in the comments section reported that they think DS is coming on stronger now - I disagree. I think he's flailing madly now. His argument against inferring God due to the presence of (conceded) objective evil seems to be "Because the first explanation is always wrong, and gods were the first explanation". Er, okay. His argument against accepting the testimony of people who have encountered God/gods amounts to "I bet they were influenced by their culture, so bring me a person who never heard of God or aliens and have them say they experienced that." Wow. Really, that's the move?

I like Vox. I think The Irrational Atheist is a brilliant book. And he brought up, at least somewhat, a very important point that I think needs to be made more in these debates. But honest to God, this whole debate just strikes me as so underwhelming. DS seems out of his league and comes across as a guy who has barely considered these issues with any amount of depth. Vox's arguments are pretty esoteric and hard to follow, at least for me - but I half expected that, since Vox isn't very orthodox.

In a way, though, we're getting exactly what the debate was supposed to offer: A proxy for a Vox-Myers debate. Except almost all of the excitement that debate could have generated would have been due to the internet presence of Vox and Myers respectively. It certainly wouldn't have been because Myers is a brilliant guy who's intellectually stimulating to read. So instead, we get a Myers-level argument from a guy who isn't Myers. It's just not very interesting.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Proving God Exists (or doesn't exist) in 2 Easy Steps!

How to prove to any individual that God exists, in 3 easy steps.

Step 1: Find out something the individual believes exists.
Step 2: Define God as that same thing.

Voila! You're done.

Ah, but wait. You're an atheist? Then here's how you prove God doesn't exist!

Step 1: Find out something the individual doesn't believe exists.
Step 2: Define God as that same thing.

So easy and simple!

And best of all, it works for more than God! Try it on free will! (Are you a materialist who wants to believe in free will? Free will is just deterministic outcomes! Do you want to NOT believe in free will? Free will is a ghost!)

Philosophy is just so easy.

Friday, September 2, 2011

In Which I Add My Input

So, an article by John Farrell is being discussed on Catholic blogs recently? Let me guess: He's causing controversy because of his defense of Catholic theology and/or moral teaching, or his stern criticism of the Cult of Gnu's abuses of science, and he's doing so by displaying he actually is more than thinly informed about the details he's discussing?

Ha! I'm kidding. He's playing Catholic water boy for PZ Myers or Jerry Coyne, right?

Really, I'd throw in my two cents here - but Valicella, Ilion, M_Francis and others have already beaten me to it, M_F being his usual devastatingly effective self about the whole thing. So I'll just do a little fast commentary.

Valicella's endorsement of him aside, I don't take Farrell seriously. He's every bit as much of a combox punk as yours truly, and his main claim to fame is the usual one among a certain class of Catholic pseudo-intellectual: 90% vicious, angry, furious offense against Christians he disagrees with (his specialty: Intelligent Design), 5% mewling pleading with atheists that maybe they kinda-sorta could tone down their criticism a smidge (because there are GOOD Christians too, like, well... Farrell himself! Right? Right? Pat on the head, please, Mister Myers? Brothers in arms, wink wink, nudge nudge?), 5% minutae.

But oh well, at least he indirectly contributed to a worthy discussion by prompting a variety of people vastly more learned than him to correct him on this topic. So at least there is that.