Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sophisticated Theism versus Primitive Theism

There's a popular sentiment among the internet communities I now and then skulk about in - the idea that atheists, particularly the Cult of Gnu, are absolutely incompetent when it comes to arguing against sophisticated forms of theism. Particularly classical theism, though not necessarily limited to that. It's a sentiment I share. Really, I consider it every bit as intellectually dishonest to argue against strawman conceptions of theism as I do to see people argue against strawman conceptions of evolutionary theory.

That's a common defense, of course. "Okay, we're arguing against strawmen... but this is what a lot of people believe!" Well, okay. And a lot of people who believe in evolution - even 'defenders' of the theory - have really horrible conceptions of evolutionary theory. Replying, "That's different - evolutionary biologists have the proper view! They just have a layman or amateur understanding at best!" just sets you up for a response of, "And philosophers/priests have the proper understanding of these arguments for theism. The average believer has just a layman or amateur understanding."

Now, I accept these things. I also think it's important - of dire importance - for people to be educated about the fundamentals of metaphysical discourse along with the more sophisticated theistic views and arguments. Even understanding as little as the importance of metaphysics, the distinction between science and philosophy, etc, is extraordinarily damaging to the modern aggressive secular/atheist bend.

But as I've said in the past, more and more, I think what's needed in addition to that is a defense of a far more crude (for lack of a better word) theism. The basic beliefs view of Alvin Plantinga. The instinctual construing of not just nature, but evolution itself, as an iteration of design that proceeds from a mind. The instinctive, basic teleological understanding with which people tend to view the world. Or even the basic trust placed in priests, rabbis, or theologians generally.

Defending and advocating sophisticated theism is one thing, and again, it's important. But there's no need for us to treat a more basic theism as somehow unjustified, and basic theists as intellectual lepers.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hi There, Kilo Papa!

Man, you always try to post a comment, and you are always weeded out. At least you're a regular visitor.

Either way, so long as you keep on visiting, perhaps you can answer a question for me.

Is this you?

After all - non-religious. Vegan (well, ex-vegan). Kilo Papa is quite an unusual, specific name, and you were certainly the kilo papa on ask.com.

So, can you please verify if, in fact, this is you?

Thanks ever so much for your reply.

EDIT: Looks like this may have gone private. Yay for caches - so the question remains.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Giving Theism the Stalin Treatment

What's missing from this list?

Here we have New Scientist talking about straight-up metaphysics. What is reality?

Is it numbers?

Is it all in our head/solipsism?

Is it consciousness?

Is it nothing?

Is it a computer we're being simulated on?

Is it matter?

Is it laws?

A lot of pretty wacky ideas, even by metaphysical standards, are given air time. One popular, age-old, well-defended answer is missing.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Nobel Peace Prize - Thank You, Embryonic Stem Cell Opponents!

Now, here's a funny thing.

Did you guys hear about the latest Nobel Peace Prize awards? If not, here's a link.

Some relevant quotes:

Two scientists from different generations won the Nobel Prize in medicine Monday for the groundbreaking discovery that cells in the body can be reprogrammed to become completely different kinds, potentially opening the door to growing customized tissues for treatments.
[...]

Basically, their work paved the way to making the equivalent of embryonic stem cells without the ethical questions the embryonic cells pose.
So hey, great news, right? The work of these guys can in principle completely obviate the need for, uh... killing infants and harvesting their flesh for precious resources. Kind of a big deal.

But here's where it gets interesting.

Yamanaka deserves extra credit for overcoming fierce objections to the creation of embryos for research, reviving the field, said Julian Savulescu, director of Oxford University's Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics.
"Yamanaka has taken people's ethical concerns seriously about embryo research and modified the trajectory of research into a path that is acceptable for all," Savulescu said. "He deserves not only a Nobel Prize for Medicine, but a Nobel Prize for Ethics."
He does indeed. And hey, it's nice to see A) a Nobel being given for this, and B) for it being noted that his Nobel, in part, is being delivered because it runs around the very ethical problems that were being presented.

But keep this in mind. Originally, opponents to embryonic stem cell research were accused of 'getting in the way of science' and holding back cures. Instead, it looks like their opposition led to research that not only circumvents the ethical objections, but was Nobel worthy.