Category Archives: Philosophy of Religion

Video: William Lane Craig vs Peter Atkins: “Does God Exist?”

A debate on “Does God Exist?” William Lane Craig (theist) and Peter Atkins (atheist)

Craig offers three arguments for the existence of God:

 

1) The Cosmological Argument

2) The Moral Argument

3) The Testimonial Argument (Resurrection of Jesus)

 

The video is nearly two hours long, so get comfortable!

 

 

I have to say that Craig comes through this debate better than does Atkins.  That’s not to say that I think  Craig’s arguments win the debate or trump the atheist’s position.  I just think that Craig does a much better job of arguing for his position.

 

Atkins also attacks the usefulness of philosophers! On some levels I agree with him: such as that observation and experimentation are the tools we need to learn about the Universe and how it came about rather than sitting on one’s bottom thinking about stuff.  On the other side, however, modern science originated from philosophy (Natural Philosophy) and further to this Philosophy of Science helped to shape, and still does, modern science.

 

Adam

Atheism is not a belief

Somebody asked me in a forum somewhere:

If there is no scientific proof for the non-existence of God, then surely atheism is a belief?

My answer:

There is absence of belief on the existence of aliens but we don’t ask for evidence for the non-existence of aliens, do we?  I’ve never known anyone to seriously ask for non evidence of aliens – that would just be nuts, right?!  There is absence of belief on the existence of God and we don’t ask for evidence, because there can’t be any evidence, for the non-existence of God.  It is logically impossible – can’t prove a negative.

The meaning of theism is defined as ‘the belief in god or gods’.

The ‘a’, which is the prefix, means ‘without’ in the same way the ‘a’ is used when describing “without morals” for ‘amoral’.  So atheism literally means without belief in theism.  In other words, it is the absence of belief  in theism.

Atheism is not a faith position or a belief system. Atheism, in its basic meaning, is not a belief – it is the lack of belief.  Further, there are only atheists because there are theists. Without theists, the term atheism would be unnecessary.

Atheism, as with theism, are descriptive terms.  In other words, they specify the presence or the absence of belief with regards to God, gods or the super-natural.

For someone who has never been introduced to the concept of God/gods/theism, they are by default without belief, ergo default atheists only from the theists’ point of view (the atheist, though he/she doesn’t know it, is indifferent, or without opinion on the matter). It is only when presented with theism does their status on the position need to be declared.  Further, atheism is an adjective, but is often used as a pejorative.  Some theists say that atheism takes more faith than theism, but here they have misunderstood what atheism actually means in its proper sense and hence this is a pejorative use of the word by them.

Comment on another blog regarding time and timelessness

Just came across this:

http://religious-tolerance.blogspot.com/2008/08/relationship-between-time-and_05.html

The author is all over the place, but I thought I’d take him on to see where he goes with my challenges. 

He wrote:

That timelessness exists is evident from the nature of time. The notion that time had a beginning is now scientifically comprehensible if not provable – since it fits in complex ways with the best explanations for the nature and origin of space and matter itself. Since time as we experience it, had a beginning then timelessness once existed and if timelessness existed once, then it follows that it continues to exist because it is timeless.
Thus we have the notion that time and timelessness co-exist.

(I’ve snipped the rest of the article)

My response:

Mike, you are all over the place with this!  Plus, you hit a paradox.  If there was a before time, which is a temporal notion, then you pull back time a little further.

It is like this.  What is North of England?  Scotland. 

What is North of Scotland?  Arctic Circle.

What is North of the Arctic Circle?  North Pole.

What is North of North Pole?  Nothing.  You cannot go further north than north.

In the same way, you cannot go before time because that is like saying that there is something further North than North.

To say you can is paradoxical.

So any subsequent claims you make has no foundation for validity because your starting ground cannot be granted.

 Adam

Bonkers Bishop

I guess one must have just landed from Mars to miss what has been said by the Archbishop this Thursday.

http://timescolumns.typepad.com/gledhill/2008/02/has-the-archbis.html

Williams has a track record of putting his foot in it, and I, as a secularist (I’ve been a paid up member of the National Secular Society for years) am thankful for it! It’s the bringing the debate to the table I’m thankful for, as it awakens people to the role of religion in public life. The NSS newsletter would be quite dull without his antics, I reckon.

Clearly, I’m for a truly secular society, which, I believe, is about equality for all, regardless if one has a Faith or not. Quite often us secularists are accused of being anti-religious. Whilst this might be the case for some of us, the majority of us don’t take that position.  Personally, I’m not against anyone having a Faith, as long as though they keep it within the private sphere. Of course, I’m not saying that religious folk shouldn’t be allowed to express their faith, what I’m saying is that they shouldn’t be permitted to discriminate against others because of their Faith, or try and push it onto others (such as faith schools, etc.) because they feel they hold a superior belief system.

Williams is, however, a serious academic as well as a Bishop. It’s very probably his thinking aloud that has got him into the mess he’s in now.  But still, he is proving that he’s not very politically savvy in this respect, especially given the tensions of ‘multiculturalism’.

Disestablishment, anyone?

Adam

Philosopher Stephen Law discussing religious education

There’s a very good discussion going on over at Stephen Law’s blog on religious education.   The discussion began when Law quoted Ibrahim Lawson (IL (a Muslim)), who used to be (I think) headteacher of Nottingham Islamia School, in a post on the dangers of religion.  Below is an extract of Law’s post:

“When I spoke about the potential dangers of faith schools on Radio 4’s Today programme, a member of one of the Standing Advisory Comms. on Religious Education contacted me to say, “Thank goodness you’re bringing this up.” He regularly goes into schools and is horrified by what he sees. And he’s a Christian. If you’re not worried about what’s going on in some religious schools, you should be. Here’s a brief excerpt from a Radio 4 interview with Ibrahim Lawson, head of an Islamic school:

[t]he essential purpose of the Islamia school as with all Islamic schools is to inculcate profound religious belief in the children.

ER: You use the word “inculcate”: does that mean you are in the business of indoctrination?
IL: I would say so, yes; I mean we are quite unashamed about that really…
ER: Does that mean that Islam is a given and is never challenged?
IL: That’s right…One of the key safeguards religious schools need to have in place is a critical culture. My own view is schools like Ibrahim Lawson’s should no longer be tolerated, let alone be state funded.”

What I find shocking here is that Lawson is really quite comfortable with the idea that children should be indoctrinate into Islam and without question.  Of course, Lawson isn’t the first religious person to hold this view and probably won’t be the last.  This is yet another reason why education should be secularised

Anyway, Ibrahaim Lawson replied to Stephen Law on Law’s blog and the debate is developing right now.  Check it out here.  Get Stephen Law’s book The War For Children’s Minds here (UK) or here (US).

Comment response: Reason and Faith.

This is a special post in response to a comment under the post – Video: Christopher Hitchens on his book – God is Not Great. The original comment is below, exactly how it was written:

“Since you are a believer in REASON, then you know absolutely NOTHING about a believer in FAITH. Therefore, since you are totally ignorant concerning Faith how is it possible that a person with simple COMMON SENSE would trust anything you have to say? Furthermore, since you’ve never met God and do not have a RELATIONSHIP with him then what you may say about him is a complete FABRICATION!I for one could not convince you OTHERWISE, for A MAN CONVINCED AGAINST HIS WILL IS OF THE SAME OPINION STILL! As for me my faith is my STRONGHOLD and my FOUNDATION and as I have learned over the years by TRIAL AND ERROR, just because you do not believe in GOD, it won’t change a thing and your soul’s DESTINATION will remain the same. By the way, the world is full of all kinds of RELIGION, and GOD IS NOT THE AUTHOR OF CONFUSION either!”
– Sandie

Hello Sandie,

You’re obviously passionate about your faith. You’re capitalisation of particular words gives this away (IT’S LIKE SHOUTING!). Let’s relax it a little and have a reasonable discussion, if we can…

So, let us begin. A ‘believer in reason’ is an odd statement. It’s a bit like saying ‘a believer in thinking clearly’. Perhaps you meant someone who believes that reason is necessary for truth. You then say ‘a believer in faith’ which I take it to mean someone who believes that faith is necessary for truth. This is how I’ve interpreted what you have written. In fact, it took me a couple of reads to understand what you wrote – it’s not very clear and comes across as a rant rather than anything thoughtful.

You seem to divide people into two camps – those who apply reason and those who follow faith. You accuse me (I think you mean me, unless you’re accusing Christopher Hitchens) of being ‘totally ignorant’ concerning faith. It does not follow that someone who applies the principles of reason cannot know anything about someone who has faith. The position of someone with faith is simple to understand – these people have a belief in something without supporting evidence, or in the face of contradictory evidence. Faith is to believe without a valid reason, or to believe in the face of reason. However, I’m guessing that you believe faith is a gift from God, and by this, you think that those who do not believe in God cannot have the ‘gift of faith’. Continue reading Comment response: Reason and Faith.

Where does Evil come from?

From a religious perspective there are two types: Natural Evil and Moral Evil.  Natural Evil will be that of earthquakes and tsunamis etc.  Moral Evil is of the sort when acting immorally, such as when someone murders another, or acts in an immoral way against a ‘righteous’ viewpoint etc. But the use of the word ‘Evil’ is always from a subjective position.  One man’s Evil is another man’s Good.  Also, the word ‘Evil’ has superstitious connotations and the followers of most religions will say that Evil is a force working against ‘good’. 

Within the philosophy of religion there is indeed the ‘Problem of Evil’, especially for the monotheistic traditions.  Apologetics will use the defence that Evil occurs to bring about a greater ‘good’ because otherwise it would be against the nature of a supposed omnipotent and benevolent God. Continue reading Where does Evil come from?

Why Intelligent Design is not Science

Not everyone I speak to is familiar with the notion of ‘Intelligent Design’. When asked, I often cut to the chase and say that Intelligent Design (ID) is just another form of Creationism but in disguise. Or in other words, ID omits the Biblical story of Creation and asserts that a Designer created life. Proponents of ID, however, say that their theory is not another form of Creationism for several reasons. Here are some of the main differences:

Hi Eve, I'm Adam!    Image courtesy of TheBrickTestament.com (c)Creationism holds that the Earth was created about 6000 years ago, whereas ID proponents accept that the Earth is at least many millions of years old.

ID proponents accept that species do undergo a small number of changes, whereas Creationism holds that all life on Earth was created in their current form.

Most crucially, and to avoid ID being immediately classed as a purely religious idea, ID does not name the Intelligent Designer. The Intelligent Designer is not for discussion; all that the theory proposes is that there is intelligent design going on.

For any theory to be considered science it has to hold up to the scrutiny of scientific method.

The classic view of how science operates is that discoveries are made based on observation. For example, a scientist may be working out in the field researching the nature of swans. He observes all the swans that he can find and notes that each swan is white. He does this for several years and comes to the conclusion that all swans are white. In philosophical terms this type of method is known as induction. Inductive reasoning has been the bedrock for many scientific discoveries since at least Ancient Greece. In fact, without induction, we wouldn’t get very far. Continue reading Why Intelligent Design is not Science