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Showing posts from July, 2008

Sye - latest installment

Hi Sye Thanks for the answers. Very helpful. This post deals with your response to my post Sye's argument below. Gosh this is getting all very complicated, what with others challenging you on the objectivity of logic, etc. But let's not lose sight of the original debate. It was about the "proof" you offer on your website for the existence of God. OK, so to summarize: My contention is that the argument on your website is not a “proof’ – certainly it does not establish its conclusion beyond reasonable doubt. You insist it is a “proof” and now add that it does establish its conclusion beyond reasonable doubt. We have both previously set out the argument like so: 1. The existence of the laws of logic necessarily requires the existence of the Christian God 2. The laws of logic exist Therefore: the Christian God exists I point out that for an argument to provide such a proof, it must be more than just deductively valid. It must not, for example, contain any contenti

Logic and God (II)

Sye is still pressing the question (paraphrasing): “But how do you atheists account for the laws of logic? As a Christian, I can. But you atheists can’t explain (or have not explained) how you account for them.” I have already explained why this challenge is irrelevant so far as my main criticism of Sye’s original proof is concerned. Sye still has not responded to that criticism, by the way. But still, let’s investigate Sye’s accounting-for-logic challenge further. Just for fun. Despite the fact that my criticism of Sye's argument places me under no obligation to do so. An atheist world view, is, as I said, simply a world view that excludes God . That’s it. There’s no requirement that it be materialist, let alone crudely reductive materialist. Atheists are free to be substance dualists, property dualists, idealists, etc. They can allow for a Platonic heaven of abstract entities, etc. So atheism, as such, has no particular problem with making room for the existence of laws of lo

Sye needs to respond to these two points

Hello Sye - you do need to respond, surely, to the two points I made in Sye's argument and Sye's proof , just below. These are two key criticisms. You did say that your website offered a "proof" of God's existence (a "proof" in the sense of establishing as true that God does indeed exist), but unless you can deal with these two points, surely you cannot in good conscience continue to maintain that. Of course, you can acknowledge this, yet still believe in God, and still suppose your belief is rationally founded, and indeed try to come up with a new, improved proof. So it's not the end of the world so far as your Christian belief system is concerned. My guess is you are now aware that your claim that your website offers a "proof" is not, or is probably not, true. While I know you want to save people's souls by converting them to Christianity, surely you don't want to turn them into believers using what you now know to be a bogu

Andalucia - switchbacks accident and Sye's "script"

Had a great day Sunday with Switchbacks, doing singletrack trails with group of 6 plus tutor Michael. Was excellent, except at end we did a 3ft drop off, and when I compressed my fork for lift off, nothing happened as I had a front puncture (Michael tells me) so hit ground hard. Lost consciousness for a moment, woke making horrible breathing noise as I was winded. Nothing broken but can no longer drive or raise either arm from shoulder. This does not prevent me typing, however, and replying to Sye, who's is being very tenacious... I should say, Sye, that I think you are a bright, and nice, bloke - and obviously concerned for our well-being too, which is why you are pursuing this - but are using your intelligence to create a sort of intellectual black hole from which you cannot now escape . In this case, you seem to have constructed a kind of script, as Paul C. nicely puts it, that has us, and you, going round and round in circles, with no way out but the one your script determines.

God and logic

Sye said: "Look folks, whether you agree with me or not, 220 posts ago, I asked how universal, abstract, invariants such as the laws of logic make sense in the atheist worldview. Don't you find it odd that no one has answered that yet?" As I just explained here , my criticism of Sye’s argument doesn’t require that I possess any answer to this question. But, let’s look at it anyway. What is an atheist world view ? Simply put, it’s a view of what there is that doesn’t include God . That’s it. Atheists don’t have to sign up to materialism, reductionist or otherwise. They can be substance dualists, property dualists, etc. etc. They can also allow for a Platonic heaven of abstract entities, if they wish. Thus an atheist world view can include abstract and objective laws of logic. Voila! But Sye is really pushing two different questions: 1. How can the laws of logic possibly exist without the Christian God? 2. How do you justify your use of the laws of logic? So,

Sye's argument

Sye said…. "Look folks, whether you agree with me or not, 220 posts ago, I asked how universal, abstract, invariants such as the laws of logic make sense in the atheist worldview. Don't you find it odd that no one has answered that yet?" The reason I have not answered this question that is that I refused to be deflected from the specific issue at hand, which is to push home my conclusion that your original argument, as presented on your website , is not a "proof" of God’s existence – certainly, it does not establish its conclusion beyond all, or even reasonable, doubt. I have, several times, explained that whether or not I am justified in using logic is irrelevant. Here’s why. We both agree that a valid argument containing a contentious and unargued-for premise does not establish the truth of its conclusion. Now, even if, as an atheist, I am not justified in believing this, you (by your own lights) are justified in believing it, so, given your original argu

Sye's proof

The comments on Sye's proof of the existence of God (discussed two posts below) have reached 250 in number, so let's start a new page. To newcomers - Sye, the author of this proof , is here defending it. My latest response: Hello again Sye Well, we are getting somewhere, actually, as I now discover that by “proof” you seem to mean deductively valid argument. Is that correct? If so - well, Golly, that's a very misleading way of using the term "proof". "Proof" usually means, argument establishing the conclusion as true beyond all doubt, beyond reasonable doubt, or whatever. People will be very misled by your website's claim to "prove" God exists, if all you are really claiming is to have put "God exists" at the end of a deductively valid argument. We have all been very misled, in fact. When I suggested that by “proof” we mean, proof beyond reasonable doubt, I thought I was doing you a favour by going with the weakest notio

Andalucia - switchbacks

Booked a day mountain biking with these guys on sunday.

"Proof that God Exists"

Andrew Louis commented about this "proof" that God exists on offer over at Sinner Ministries. Here's a quick comment from me. Check out the "proof" first though. It's short, and kind of amazing.... (n.b. choose objective laws, etc. as it saves time). Stephen wrote: Checked out the "proof". So it runs: if you believe in objective laws of logic and maths and science and moral truths (that are immaterial, by which author means not made out of material stuff), you must believe in God because, er, they couldn't exist if God did not. Clearly, the author really thinks he's got a "proof". But it is shot full of holes. First, where's the argument that objective laws of logic, etc. require the existence of God? There isn't one. Just the assertion that they do. Yet, amazingly, this is offered as the "proof". The author's chutzpah is kind of breath-taking. Only a religious zealot would dare offer this as a "

Andalucia - Veleta cycle

Rode up to Veleta today - highest [correction, second highest] peak in the Sierra Nevada. First picture is villages of Bubion and Campiera on the right hand hill side with Veleta (sharpest point on skyline, with tiny patch of snow) behind. Then two photos of high up. It's a fabulous place. 5hr return ride climbing from 1800 to 3396 metres, which is, er, 1596 metres or 5226 feet of climbing.... gosh that's why my bum hurts. In the last photo you can see the trail I rode up on disappearing on right of image on hillside in far background. ...get back to philosophy shortly.

Speciesism, Potential and Normality

(about 2,000 words) Abstract Philosopher Roger Scruton and others have attempted to justify our discriminating between pigs on the one hand and equally dim humans on the other by appealing to the notions of potential and normality. Even dim humans have, or at least once had, the potential to be smart sophisticated creatures like ourselves, capable of entering into rich, complex moral communities. Moreover, human beings will, under normal conditions, develop into such individuals. Pigs won’t. That is why we are under a powerful moral obligation to care for and nurture dim humans, but can in good conscience send equally intelligent pigs off to the abattoir. This paper presents a thought experiment designed to bring out the inadequacy of this type of justification. Introduction Why is it typically wrong to kill and eat human animals, but not other sorts of animal? What is the difference between our species and others that justifies us in treating them so differently? This is a notoriously


This is a very strange story. Death threats issued to student who smuggled a cracker out of Eucharist....

Centre for Inquiry - visit

I am currently staying in Buffalo, NY, as a guest of Paul Kurtz and the Centre for Inquiry (transnational). We are sorting out how CFI London will proceed. I am interested in what kind of talks and events people would like to see put on, If you've got suggestions let me know... POST SCRIPT: Here are ideas I am currently playing with. Comments please. 1. LEAD EVENT: PUBLIC DEBATE: THE NEW ATHEISM. Perhaps with a certain well-known atheist and his nemesis. Not mentioning any names.... 2. Course: Exploring the paranormal. 2hrs for one evening per week, over 5 weeks. Possible charge of £20. With leading parapsychologists. 3. Course: The Omega Course. (or Alpha plus course). an alternative to the Church of England's cultish Alpha Course. 3a. Course or event on how cults work. 4. EVENT: Psychic powers. Come along and see fantastic demonstrations of psychic ability! (Some of you may remember I did this for the launch of THINK with Tony Youens, and it was a lot of fun. Got lots o

Why knowledge of other faiths is not enough

Many seem to think that, so long as a faith school is providing children with knowledge of other faiths, that's good enough. It isn't. Here are 3 reasons why: 1. For a start, knowledge of other faiths does not necessarily lead to a reduction in friction between faiths. In fact, often the most vicious and violent religious conflicts are between groups with detailed knowledge with what the other believes, e.g. Catholic vs. Protestant; Shia vs. Sunni. Mere knowledge of other faiths does not produce tolerance and respect. Actual interaction with members of other faiths (and none), on the other hand, probably does have a beneficial effect. 2. Mere knowledge of other faiths, in the absence of any robust critical thinking about faith, often also promotes a very intellectually flabby sort of relativism . Pupils presented with a range of faiths are likely to realize that, as these faiths all contradict each other, most of them (perhaps all of them) must be largely false. Teac

Religion and Philosophy in Schools

Religion and philosophy in schools [my chapter from Hand and Winstanley (eds.) Philosophy in Schools , Continuum 2008] WARNING: THIS IS LONG! Stephen Law Is philosophy in schools a good idea? The extent to which early exposure to a little philosophical thinking is of educational benefit is, of course, largely an empirical question. As a philosopher, that sort of empirical study is not my area of expertise. But of course there is also a philosophical dimension to this question. As a philosopher, conceptual clarification and the analysis of the logic of the arguments on either side certainly is my field. That is where I hope to make a small contribution here. This chapter is in two parts. In the first, I look at two popular religious objections to the suggestion that all children ought to be encouraged to think independently and critically about moral and religious issues. In the second part, I explain a well-known philosophical distinction – that between reasons and causes – and