Monday, May 31, 2010

The Male Brain



The Giraff and the Baby



The psychotherapist's new banner!


A psychotherapist was having a roaring business since he started from
scratch.So much so that he could now afford to have a proper shop
banner advertising his wares. So he told a kid to paint the sign board
for him & put it above his shop entrance.

But, instead of his business building up, it began to slacken. He had
especially noticed the ladies shying away from his shop after reading
the sign board. So he decided to check it out himself. Then he
understood why! The boy had found a small wooden board so he had split the word into three words:


Psycho-

the-

rapist

A dog trick!



One of Pavlov's dogs..



Defining Atheism


The question, “do you believe that one or more gods exist,” can be answered in several ways, but all responses fall into one of three main categories (Carrier, 2007): Theism; Atheism; & Anapophasism.


ATHEISM

An atheist is anyone who consciously rejects the existence of all gods; those who have thought about the existence of deities and have purposely decided against it (Drange, 1998). There are two main reasons for the rejection of theism:

Logical: some definitions of god are logically self-contradictory, and therefore it is impossible that such a god exists.

Empirical: there are several arguments that support atheism.


THEISM

A theist is anyone who consciously affirms the existence of one or more gods (Drange, 1998). Theism can be divided into subcategories according to the number of gods one think exists:

Monotheists affirm the existence of only one god.
Polytheists affirm the existence of more than one god.


ANAPOPHASISM

An anapophasist is anyone who consciously neither affirms nor rejects theism. Anapophasism is Greek for “without a decision”, and anapophasists are either undecided or suspend judgment (Carrier, 2007). One reason given for anapophasism is
that there is not sufficient ground for affirming or rejecting theism, because, at this moment, the case for thesim and the case for atheism are equally strong.


AGNOSTICISM

Agnosticism is defined as the view that the truth value of certain claims is unknown or unknowable. Agnosticism is about epistemology – the possibility of knowledge. Theism and atheism is about metaphysics – the existence or non-existence of one or more gods.

It is often claimed that agnosticism is the middle ground between theism and atheism; but this is false. Every theist, atheist and anapophasist should be agnostic with regard to at least one god (Carrier, 2007). Imagine a god that is omnipotent and creator of the universe, who use his power to always make sure that you do not have any reason to think that he exists. This means that even the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. So you cannot deny the existence of this god, and therefore you should be agnostic with regard to him.

In fact, every agnostic, theist and anapophasist should be atheist with regard to at least one god. Imagine a god that is omnipotent and the creator of the universe, who uses his power to always make sure that you have every reason to think that he exists. It would be irrational to not deny the existence of this god, because your own experience is evidence against his existence. In this case, the absence of evidence is not only highly predictive of his non-existence, it virtually entails it.

This means that the distinction between negative and positive atheism is wrong (Martin, 2006); every atheist should be both. There is not any real separation between atheism and agnosticism. The only meaningful distinction is between theism and atheism. Agnosticism is not a middle position. Even theists are atheists and agnostics with regard to some gods. So the only thing that separates theists from the rest of us is a belief in the existence of at least one god (Carrier, 2007).


NO POSITION

It is sometimes claimed that all children are born atheists because they lack of belief in God (d’Holbach, 1772). But this is just as ridiculous as calling a monkey an atheist because of her absence of theistic beliefs. Hence, the definition of atheism as the absence of theism is absurd, and so is the proposed distinction between implicit and explicit atheism (Smith, 1979). It constitutes a kind of category fallacy, since there is a significant difference between having a belief-state (of either belief or disbelief in some proposition), and not having a corresponding belief-state at all. Those who do not possess an idea of a god or gods, either because they have not heard about such an idea or formed one themselves or they cannot comprehend the issue, are neither theists, atheist, or anapophasists; they do not have a position.


ATHEISM IS NOT A WORLDVIEW

Some theists claim that atheism is just another religion; but it is false. Atheism in itself is not a set of beliefs; hence, atheism is not a worldview or ideology. Atheism is compatible with some philosophies, such as Metaphysical Naturalism and Liberalism, but atheists do not have a common set of beliefs they all adhere to: atheists can be Buddhists, Humanistic Jews, Marxists, Anarchists, etc. If someone tells you that he/she is an atheist, you cannot really know anything about what else that person believes or disbelieve in.


Reference:

Carrier, R. (2007). Atheist or Agnostic?

Drange, T. M. (1998). Atheism, Agnosticism, Noncognitivism.

d’Holbach, P. H. T. (1772). Good Sense.

Martin, M. (2006). The Cambridge Companion to Atheism. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Smith, G. H. (1979). Atheism: The Case Against God. New York: Prometheus.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

TED: Rosling's New Insights on Poverty



TED: Sinek - "How Great Leaders Inspire Action"



TED: Power on a Complicated Hero


Samantha Power tells a story of a hero, Sergio Vieira de Mello. This UN diplomat walked a thin moral line, negotiating with the world's worst dictators to help their people survive crisis.

Power is author of the (must read) book "A Problem from Hell", in which she offers a disturbing examination of 20th-century acts of genocide and U.S responses to them.


TED: Krishnan Fight Against Sex Slavery


Sunitha Krishnan has dedicated her life to rescuing women and children from sex slavery, a multimilion-dollar global market. In this talk, she calls for a more humane approach to helping these victims rebuild their lives.


Saturday, May 29, 2010

TED: Wright on the Evolution of Compassion


Robert Wright uses evolutionary biology to explain why we appreciate the Golden Rule and why we sometimes ignore it.


TED: Sacks on What Hallucination Reveals About Our Minds



TED: Grandin - "The World Needs All Kinds of Minds"



TED: Dennett on Dangerous Memes



TED: Dennett on Consciousness



TED: Drori on What We Think We Know



TED: Zimbardo on the Psychology of Evil



TED: Fisher on the Brain in Love



TED: Ramachandran on the Mind



TED: Ideas Worth Spreading


TED (short for Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a U.S. private non-profit foundation that is best known for its TED talks devoted to "ideas worth spreading." The talks cover almost all aspects of science and culture.


Recommended Talks

• A.J. Jacobs - My Year of Living Biblically

• Beau Lotto - Optical Illusions Show How We See

• Dan Ariely - Are We In Control of Our Own Decisions

• Daniel Dennett - Response to Rick Warren

• Daniel Kahneman - The Riddle of Experience vs. Memory

• Hans Rosling - New Insights on Poverty

• James Randi - Takedown of Psychic Fraud

• J.K. Rowling - The Fringe Benefits of Failure

• Michael Shermer - Strange Beliefs

• Michael Specter - The Danger of Science Denial

• Oliver Sacks - What Hallucination Reveals About Our Minds

• Philip Howard - Four Ways to Fix a Broken Legal System

• Richard Dawkins - Militant Atheism

• Richard Dawkins - Our "Queer" Universe

• Robert Wright - Evolution of Compassion

• Sam Harris - Science Can Answer Moral Questions

• Samantha Power - A Complicated Hero

• Simon Sinek - How Great Leaders Inspire to Action

• Steven Pinker - The Myth of Violence

• Temple Grandin - The World Needs All Kinds of Minds

• Vilayanur Ramachandran - The Mind

• Philip Zimbardo - The Psychology of Evil

TED: Dawkins on Our "Queer" Universe



TED: Dawkins on Militant Atheism



TED: Harris - "Science Can Answer Moral Questions"



TED: Pinker on the Myth of Violence



Fallacy: Affirming a Disjunct


This formal propositional fallacy occurs when it is concluded that one disjunct must be false because the other disjunct is true, when they may both be true.

Logical Form:
A or B
A
Therefore, it is not the case that B

Counter Example:
Lassie is a dog or Lassie is a mammal
Lassie is a mammal
Therefore, Lassie is not a dog

Blogglisten

Propositional Fallacies



• Affirming a Disjunct
• Affirming the Consequent
• Denying the Antecedent

Blogglisten

Syllogistic Fallacies


Formal fallacies that occur in syllogisms.

Any syllogism type (other than polysyllogism and disjunctive):
• Fallacy of Four Terms

Categorical:
• Affirmative Conclusion from a Negative Premise
• Existential Fallacy
• Fallacy of Exclusive Premises
• Fallacy of Necessity
• Fallacy of the Undistributed Middle
• Illicit Major
• Illicit Minor

Disjunctive:
• Affirming a Disjunct

Statistical:
• Accident
• Converse Accident

Blogglisten

Fallacies


A fallacy is, generally, incorrect reasoning in argumentation; when the premises of an argument do not support the conclusion. Fallacies may be created unintentionally, or intentionally in order to deceive other people.

Formal Fallacies
A formal fallacy is a pattern of reasoning that is always wrong due to a flaw in the logical structure of the argument which renders the argument invalid.

Informal Fallacies
An argument whose stated premises fail to support their proposed conclusion. The error has to do with issues of inference.

Why Study Fallacies?
People make mistakes in their reasoning. In order to be able to spot invalid arguments, you need to know how to identify incorrect reasoning. And, to be able to refute invalid arguments, you need to understand why they are wrong.

List of Fallacies
Ignoratio Elenchi
Poisoning the Well
Red Herring
Tu Quoque
Two Wrongs Make a Right

Blogglisten

Friday, May 28, 2010

Fallacy: Red Herring


This fallacy is commited whenever an irrelevant topic is presented in order to divert attention from the original issue, trying to win the argument by creating a smoke screen that clouds the issue that is supposed to throw the opponent off his track.

Argument Form:
Topic A is under discussion
Topic B is introduced under the guise of being relevant to topic A (when topic B is actually not relevant to topic A)
Topic A is abandoned

Blogglisten

Fallacy: Two Wrongs Make a Right


This fallacy is committed when a person “justifies” an action X by claiming that the victim would do the same thing to the offender. A morally wrong action is still wrong even if another person/group would also do it.

Argument Form:
It is claimed that person/group B would do action X to person/group A
It is acceptable for person/group A to do action X to person/group B (when A's doing X to B is not necessary to prevent B from doing X to A)

Example:
Alan: “Palestinian terrorism against Israeli civilians is wrong”
Noam: “Those terrorist actions are justified, because Israel has occupied them”
Alan: “Even when they kill innocent children?”
Noam: “Yes”

Legitimate Use:
The argument is not fallacious if B’s action is necessary to prevent evil upon him. For example, if group A is planning terrorize group B, then group B would be justified in launching a pre-emptive strike to prevent the terrorism.

Blogglisten

Fallacy: Tu Quoque


This fallacy is committed when it is concluded that a person’s claim is false because it is inconsistent with something the person has said or done.

You-too version:
A makes criticism P
A is also guilty of P
Therefore, P is dismissed

The fact that a person's claims are not consistent with his actions might indicate that the person is a hypocrite but this does not prove his claims are false.

Example:
"He cannot accuse me of libel because he was just successfully sued for libel."

Inconsistence Version:
Person A makes claim X
Person B asserts that A's past claims are inconsistent with the truth of claim X
Therefore X is false

This is a logical fallacy because the conclusion that P is false does not follow from the premises; even if A has made past claims which are inconsistent with P, it does not necessarily prove that P is either true or false.

Example:
"You say aircraft are able to fly because of the laws of physics, but this is false because twenty years ago you also said aircraft fly because of magic."

Blogglisten

Monday, May 24, 2010

Arguments for Theism

Theisitc arguments attemt to support the hypothesis that a god exists.

- Argument from Numbers

- Atheism is just another religion

- Evolution is bad

- Atheism is bad

- Reformed Epistemology

- Argument from Faith

- Faith is a good thing

- Cosmological Arguments

- Argument from Religious Experience

- Argument from Feelings

- Ontological Arguments

- Prudential Arguments

- Argument from Scripture

- Argument from Prophecy

- Argument from Divine Justice

- Argument from Prayer

- Argument from Miracles

- Argument from Biological Design

- Argument from Order

- Argument from Ethics

- Inference to Best Explanation

- Argument from Heaven

- Argument from Mind-Body Duality

- Argument from No Disproof

- Argument from Authority

Evidential Arguments for Atheism


Arguments that attempt to show that certain known facts support the hypothesis of atheism. Such arguments, typically, start with a known fact and then attempt to show that the fact in question supports the hypothesis of atheism over the hypothesis of theism because we have more reason to expect the fact to obtain if God does exist than if he does not exist. If such arguments succeed, they provide some evidence for atheism and against theism. By combining such facts one can construct a cumulative case for atheism.


- Cosmological Arguments

- Evolutionary Arguments

- The Problem of Evil

- Argument from the Success of Science

- Argument from Physical Minds

- Argument from Divine Hiddenness

- The Psychogenesis of Religion

- Inference to the Best Explanation

- Argument from a Good Atheistic Life

- Argument from Naturalism

Perfection vs. Creation Arguments


A perfect being could not have created the universe. Thus, God cannot be perfect.

Version 1

1. If God exists, then he is perfect
2. If God exists, then he is the creator of the universe
3. A perfect being can have no needs or wants
4. If any being created the universe, then that being must have had some need or want
5. Therefore, it is impossible for a perfect being to be the creator of the universe (from 3 and 4)
6. Hence, it is impossible for God to exist (from 1, 2, and 5)


Version 2

1. If God exists, then he is perfect
2. If God exists, then he is the creator of the universe
3. Whatever a perfect being creates, it must be perfect
4. The universe is not perfect
5. Therefore, it is impossible for a perfect being to be the creator of the universe (from 3 and 4)
6. Hence, it is impossible for God to exist (from 1, 2, and 5)


Reference:
Drange, T. M. (1998). Incompatible-Properties Arguments: A Survey. Philo (2), pp. 49-60.

Logical Arguments for Atheism


Logical Arguments attempt to show either that the concept of God is self-contradictory, or logically inconsistent with some known fact.

Inconsistence Arguments

Perfection:
- Perfection vs. Creation
If God is perfect, then he cannot be the creator of the universe.

Transcendent:
- Transcendence and Creation
If God's eternity is timless, then he cannot be the creator of the universe.

Eternal:
- Eternity and the Universe
If God is temporal, he must have come into existence about 15 million years ago.

Self-Contradictory Arguments
Aim to show that the concept of God is self-contradictory, either because (1) one of God’s properties is logically impossible; or because there is (2) an incompatibility between two of God’s properties.

Omniscience:
- The Impossibility Argument
No being can know everything.

- Foreknowledge vs. Free Actions
If God is omniscient, then do humans have free will?

Omnipotence:
- The Impossibility Argument
An omnibenevolent God cannot be omnipotent.

- The Paradox of the Stone
Can God create a stone that he cannot lift?

- Omnipotence vs. Necessary Existence
Can God Commit Suicide?

Omnibenevolence:
- All-Just vs. All-Merciful
God cannot be both all-just and all-merciful.


Incompatible Properties:
- Transcendent vs. Omnipresent
- Personal vs. Transcendent
- Non-Physical vs. Personal
- Omniscient vs. Transcendent
- Omnipresent vs. Omniscient
- Simplicity vs. Omnipresent

Recommended Books














Subject:

- Atheism

- Islam

- Psychology

Fallacy: Ignoratio Elenchi


Ignoratio elenchi is the informal fallacy of presenting an argument that may in itself be valid, but does not address the issue in question. This may be a mistake made during a refutation of an argument due to ignorance of what would constitute a disproof.

Fallacy: Poisoning the Well


Poisoning the well is a logical fallacy where adverse information about a target is preemptively presented to an audience, with the intention of discrediting or ridiculing everything that the target person is about to say. Poisoning the well is a special case of argumentum ad hominem.

The person making such an attack is hoping that the unfavorable information will bias listeners against the person in question and hence that they will reject any claims he might make. However, merely presenting unfavorable information about a person (even if it is true) hardly counts as evidence against the claims he/she might make.

Structure:
1. Unfavorable information (true or false) about person A is presented by another.
2. Any claims person A then makes will be regarded as false or taken less seriously.

Examples:
1. “That's my stance on the public education system, and anyone who disagrees with me hates children.”
2. “Before you listen to my opponent, may I remind you that he has been in jail”

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Foreknowledge and Free Actions


One of God’s defining properties is omniscience, i.e. for every true proposition, he knows that it is true. It follows that God can know in advance what your actions will be. But, if that is true, then are any of our actions really free?


The Argument

(1) God knows on Monday that I will go to a party on Tuesday (premise)
(2) Necessarily, if God knows on Monday that I will go to a party on Tuesday,
then I will go to a party on Tuesday (premise)
(3) So, necessarily, I will go to a party on Tuesday (from 1 and 2)
(4) So, if I go to a party on Tuesday, I do not go freely (from 3)

If God knows in advance what I’m going to do, and he cannot be wrong, then, when Tuesday comes, I will have to go to the party. If I do not go, then God would have been wrong, and that is impossible, because an omniscient being cannot make such a mistake. But, if I have to go to the party, then I do not go freely.

So, if God knows in advance what your actions will be, then none of your actions is free. Conversely, if some of your actions really are free, then God cannot know in advance what they will be, and hence he cannot be omniscient.


Solution

Some theists have concluded that God does know our future actions, and hence that we are not really free, i.e. our actions are predetermined by his foreknowledge. Others have said that since we are free, our actions are not knowable in advance. But there is a solution: the argument commits a logical fallacy:

In general, one cannot infer ‘necessarily q’ (3) from the two premises ‘necessarily if p, then q’ (2) and ‘p’ (1). The necessity of the conditional (i.e. ‘if p, then q’), does not imply the necessity of the consequent (‘then q’; I will go to a party on Tuesday), even when the antecedent is true (‘if p’; God knows on Monday that I will go to a party on Tuesday). All that follows from premises 1 and 2 is that I will go to a party on Tuesday.

If God foreknows that I will do X, then if follows that I do not do not-X. What does not follow is that I cannot do not-X. God’s foreknowledge does not exert a coercive causal power that gets a grip on me and forces me to go to the party on Tuesday. His foreknowledge exerts no influence on my behavior, and thus do not threaten my freedom. I do not go to the party in virtue of God’s foreknowledge; rather, God foreknows in virtue of the fact that I go to the party.


Conclusion:

There is no real problem here. Theists have been unnecessarily concerned about God’s foreknowledge and human’s free actions: the two concepts are not in any conflict.


Reference:

Everitt, N. (2004). The Non-Existence of God. New York: Routledge.

The Paradox of the Stone


One of God’s defining properties is that he is omnipotent. But it has been argued that the concept of omnipotence is paradoxical or logically incoherent, and therefore it is impossible for any being to be omnipotent. The Paradox of the Stone is an argument that claims that God cannot be omnipotent. This is not an argument for atheism, but for the reform of theology (i.e. redefining the concept of God). If it succeeds, it shows that any God defined as having the property of omnipotence cannot exist.


The Argument

Can God create a stone that is so heavy that he cannot lift it? If God can create a stone that is so heavy that he cannot lift it, there is something that he cannot do, namely lift the stone in question. If God cannot create a stone that is so heavy that he cannot lift it, there is something that he cannot do, namely create such a stone. Either way, there is something that God cannot do, and if there is something that he cannot do, he cannot be omnipotent.

(1) One of God’s properties is omnipotence (definition)
(1) God either can or cannot create a rock that is so heavy that he cannot lift it.
(2) If God can create a rock that is so heavy that he cannot lift it,
then God is not omnipotent.
(3) If God cannot create a rock that is so heavy that he cannot lift it,
then God is not omnipotent
(4) God is not omnipotent
(5) If God exists, then God is omnipotent
Therefore:
(6) God (as here defined) does not exist


Solution

This paradox is easily solved. Since God is omnipotent, he cannot create a stone which is too heavy for him to lift, because he can lift every stone that can be created. It is not logically possible for God to make a stone which is too heavy to be lifted by an omnipotent being, i.e. a being that can lift up anything which it is logically possible to lift up. Hence, the fact that God cannot create a stone which is too heavy for him to lift shows no limitation in God’s powers.


Conclusion

The Paradox of the Stone does not show that God’s powers are limited or that he’s not omnipotent. The fact that this argument fails does not mean that we have proven that God can be omnipotent; we have just shown that this argument has no power, but not that all such arguments are powerless. There are arguments that are far more persuasive (see: Omnipotence)


Reference:

Everitt, N. (2004). The Non-Existence of God. New York: Routledge.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Omnipotence


In Greek, Roman and Norse mythology, the gods were powerful, but their individual power was limited. These gods were often fighting amongst each other and no one god held all power.

In monotheism (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) there is a single god, and this God is said to be omnipotent: there is no limit to God's power, and no other being could exceed the overall power of God.

Power should be distinguished from ability. Power = ability + opportunity: a being having maximal ability that is prevented by circumstances from exercising those abilities would not be omnipotent. Nothing could prevent an omnipotent agent from exercising its powers, if it were to endeavor to do so.

But what does it mean to say of any being that it is omnipotent? A being that can do everything, even the logically impossible, seems to qualify as omnipotent.


Definition 1
X is omnipotent = X can do everything

A God who could do the logically impossible would be malevolent. Human beings have free will – the capacity to knowingly and intentionally choose between two or more tolerable alternative actions. God allows humans to be free in order that they may be free to love God and other fellow beings. Love requires freedom; a person who is not free is unable to love. Unfortunately, this freedom can be used to do evil acts: killing, raping, torturing, etc. If God could do the logically impossible, then God could bring about two mutually contradictory states of affairs. God could have created this world such that:

1. Human beings have free will, and
2. Humans are controlled in such a way that they only do morally good actions

Hence, God could have prevented all the evil that humans have inflicted on each other at no cost. There would be no wars or terrorist acts. Women would not be raped. Children would not be neglected or beaten. Thus, if God exists and can do the logically impossible, then the fact that unnecessary evil caused by humans exist in the world shows that God is malevolent.

However, according to this definition, God could create a square circle; but that is absurd. It is not possible for an agent to bring about an impossible state of affairs. Hence, God cannot break the laws of logic.

Some think that this is a limitation of God’s power; but it is not. This does not mean that there are tasks that God cannot do; rather, they are not tasks at all - they are meaningless because they are logically impossible. To say that something is logically impossible is to exclude it from the realm of the do-able.


Definition 2
X is omnipotent = X can do everything which it is logically possible to do

Are there any actions which God will be unable to perform? One of God’s defining properties is that he is immaterial. Hence, God does not have a body. It follows that God cannot do any act that require having a body. This means that you can do things that God cannot do! You can dance in the moonlight; God cannot. Humans can run in the jungle, hug a loved one, etc. If a God exists, he should envy us! But, couldn’t God just create himself a body, and then dance in the moonlight? After all, according to Christian theology, God walked on earth as a human being named Jesus.

Another of God's defining properties is that he is omnibenevolent. Hence, God cannot act immorally. This means that you can do something that God cannot do! You can sin; God can not. Humans can act cowardly, cruel, selfish, etc. It seems that omnibenevolence and omnipotence are imcompatible because omnipotence entails that God has the power to bring about evil, whereas omnibenevolence entails that God is powerless to bring about evil. Since acts of evil is not logically impossible it follows that an omnipotent being can bring about evil. Hence, an omnibenevolent God cannot also be omnipotent. To solve this problem, the theist can relativise omnipotence to the being in question:


Definition 3
X is omnipotent = X can do everything which it is logically possible for X to do (i.e. everything which is logically consistent with X’s other defining properties)

This explains why God cannot sin: it is logically impossible for God to sin, since he is by definition morally perfect, so his inability does not compromise his omnipotence. Another of the defining features of God is that he is immaterial or pure spirit. This means that it is not logically possible for God to ride a horse, scratch his nose, etc., and hence his inability to do so will not be a limitation on his omnipotence.

But, a source of complication comes from the fact that there may be some kinds of action that are possible at one time but not at another. In 1938, God had the power to prevent World War II. In 1946, given that he had allowed the War to occur, is it logically possible for him to bring it about that the War had never occurred? Given the definition, the answer seems to be "yes”. However, it is not possible for an efficient cause to occur later than its effect. Therefore, it is impossible for an agent to have power over the past. Hence, God cannot change the past. The theist can relativise God’s power to a time: something can be logically possible for God at one time and not at another.


Definition 4
X is omnipotent = at every time, X can do everything which it is logically possible for X to do at that time (i.e. everything which is logically consistent with X’s other defining properties)

This definition opens up the possibility of there being great numbers of omnipotent beings. Of course, there would be a great many things which these omnipotent beings were powerless to do; but as long as their powerlessness was a logical consequence of some of their defining properties, it would not show that they were really not omnipotent.

We can imagine an absurd case which is consistent with this definition. Imagine a nullipotent being: one of whose defining features is that he cannot do anything. He will then count as omnipotent by the definition. For it will be true of him that he can do everything which is logically possible for a nullipotent being to do, i.e. nothing at all. It would clearly be absurd to describe a nullipotent being as omnipotent, so any definition of omnipotence which allows us to do this must also be absurd. The theist can amend the definition to avoid the absurdity.


Definition 5
X is omnipotent = at every time, X can do everything which it is logically possible for X to do at that time (i.e. everything which is logically consistent with X’s other defining properties); and no being, Y, greater in overall power than X, can be conceived

A nullipotent being do not qualify by this definition because they fail the final clause: we can conceive of beings greater in power than nullipotent beings. But this definition creates another problem: it exclude God from being omnipotent! Imagine a being – call him Semigod – which has all of God’s properties except for moral perfection. Since his actions are not constrained by moral perfection, he can do everything that God can do, and more. He can sin and God cannot. Semigod would therefore be greater in overall power than God; hence God fail to meet the final clause of Definition 5; hence God is not omnipotent.

Conclusion
The very idea of an omnipotent being is logically impossible. Hence, if a supernatural being exists, he will not be omnipotent. Thus, God is not omnipotent, because no being can be. Nor is he the most powerful being that can be conceived, because he is constrained by his other properties. Hence, all that can be claimed is that God is very, very powerful.


Further Reading:

Everitt, N. (2004). The Non-Existence of God. New York: Routledge.

Hoffman, J. & Rosenkrantz, G. (2006). Omnipotence. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Martin, M. (1990). Atheism: A Philosophical Justification. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Plantinga, A. (1967). God and Other Minds. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Stewart, M. (1993). The Greater-Good Defence: An Essay on the Rationality of Faith. London: Macmillan.

Swinburne, R. (1986). The Coherence of Theism. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Vardy, P. (1999). The Puzzle of God. Londin: Fount.

Vardy, P. & Arliss, J. (2003). The Thinker's Guide to God.UK: O Books.

Can God Commit Suicide?


If God is omnipotent, then he can do everything which it is logically possible to do. This property implies that he can kill himself. Thus, if God can not commit suicide, then he is not omnipotent.

But, if God also exist necessarily, then he can neither fail to exist nor cease to exist; thus, he cannot destroy himself. God’s omnipotence would not require or permit that he could bring about his own non-existence if we assume his omnipotence requires only that he can do everything that is logically possible.

However, the notion of necessary existence is at least problematic. If God exists necessary, then there could be no possible world (= a world that can be described without contradiction) in which God did not exist. But it seems obvious that there can be such a world. We can imagine a world W in which only a single book exists. It’s hard to spot any contradiction in that world.

Since most philosophers deny that God’s existence is logically necessary, it seems that they must concede that God can destroy himself.


Reference:
Everitt, N. (2004). The Non-Existence of God. New York: Routledge.

Related Posts:
[Omnipotence] - [The Paradox of the Stone]

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Books on Psychology


15 books on Psychology


Andrew Wickens – “Introduction to Biopsychology” (2009)

Baumeister & Finkel – Advanced Social Psychology (2010)

B. R. Hergenhahn - "An Introduction to the History of Psychology" (2008)

David D. Burns – “Feeling Good”

David M. Buss – “Evolutionary Psychology” (2007)

Denise Winn - "The Manipulated Mind"

Hogg & Vaughan - "Social Psychology" (2008)

Larsen & Buss – “Personality Psychology” (2009)

Lilienfeld et al. - "50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology"

Nolen-Hoeksema et al. – Atkinson & Hilgard’s Introduction to Psychology (2009)

Richard Bentall - "Madness Explained"

Silvester et al. – “Work Psychology” (2004)

Walter Sinnott-Armstrong - "Moral Psychology Volume 1-3" (2008)

Books on Atheism


21 books on Atheism

Anthony Kenny – "The God of the Philosophers" (1987)

Antony Flew – "God and Philosophy" (2005) 7/10

George H. Smith – "Atheism: The Case against God" (1980) 8/10

Graham Oppy – "Arguing about Gods"

Guy Harrison – "50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God" (2008) 7/10

J. L. Mackie - "The Miracle of Theism"(1983)

Julian Baggini – "Atheism: A Brief Insight"

Julian Baggini - "Atheism: A Very Short Introduction"

Michael Martin – "Atheism" (1992)

Michael Martin - "Atheism, Morality and Meaning" (2002)

Michael Martin - "The Cambridge Companion to Atheism" (2006)

Michael Martin & Rick Monnier – "The Impossibility of God" (2003)

Michael Martin & Rick Monnier – "The Improbability of God" (2006) 9/10

Nicholas Everitt - "The Non-Existence of God" (2003) 9/10

Peter Vardy - "The Puzzle of God" (1999) 8/10

Peter Vardy & Julie Arliss - "The Thinker's Guide to God" (2003) 7/10

Richard Carrier – "Sense and Goodness" (2005) 9/10

Richard Dawkins – "The God Delusion" (2006) 7/10

Victor Stenger – "God: The Failed Hypothesis" (2008)

Victor Stenger – "Has Science Found God?" (2003)

Victor Stenger – "The New Atheism" (2009)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Outsider Test for Beliefs (OTB)


People adopt different worldviews, primarily due to their upbringing. These worldviews contradict each other, thus they cannot all be true. The best method for testing if one’s worldview is correct is from the perspective of an outsider with a high level of skepticism. This is the Outsider Test for Beliefs (OTB), proposed first time by John W. Loftus in 2006 (see: Loftus, 2008; Loftus, 2010).


Socialization

You had no control over where you were born or to whom. If you were born in Mexico, you’d likely be a Catholic. If you were born in India, you’d likely be a Hindu. 95% of people born and raised in Thailand are Buddhist. 95% of people born and raised in Saudi Arabia are Muslim (Loftus, 2010). Why is this so?

As children we had little capacity to understand and question claims about the nature of the cosmos. Do you believe in Evolution or Creationism? Heaven or Nirvana? Allah or Vishnu? Are you a Christian, Buddhist or Naturalist? Why, or why not? Whatever you believe, why do you believe it and not something else? Your answer might begin with what you learned as a child on your parent’s knee. We adopt our parent’s worldview almost as certain as we inherit their skin color.

One scientific study found that: 97% of Catholics, Jews, United Church members; 96% of Protestants and Lutherans; 90% of Anglicans; 85% of Mennonites and 78% of fundamentalists had been raised in the religion they identified with; 47% of atheists/agnostics had been raised in secular homes; the rest (53%) were apostates (Altemeyer & Hunsberger, 1997). Thus, there is a strong tendency to adhere to the religion we have been raised into. One study found a correlation of .88 between parents and their children’s choice of worldview (Jennings & Niemi, 1968; In: Hogg & Vaughan, 2005). People do not stray far from what they were raised to believe, but move around among versions of the same general religion, and when they make a more radical change, they rarely do so after conducting a thorough study of the comparative evidence (Loftus, 2010). Thus, we can make a good prediction of which faith a person adheres to if we know the faith of his/her parents.

It’s not natural for parents to constrain themselves; most parents will try to transmit their worldview to their children. Some parents go to extremes to ensure that their children adopt certain views and that these views are so resistant to change as possible (Humphrey, 1998). Indoctrination is to impose a worldview on a child through socialization, without any rational process, where the influence is one-sided and prevents the child from taking an independent position with regard to the views that are tried to be instilled in them (Pedersen, 1976; Tønnessen, 1983). An indoctrinated individual is often dogmatic and will defend their cherished beliefs vigorously (Winn, 2000). They lack self-criticism, and exhibit little flexibility and complexity in their reasoning (Tønnessen, 1983).

Since most parents tell their children to believe whatever they themselves believe, most of us just believe whatever we have been told to believe. Thus, we have not based our views on any rational ground, and therefore we have no reason to be confident about the truthfulness of our beliefs.


Skepticism

Muslims dismiss the distinctive beliefs of Buddhists. Christians dismiss the distinctive beliefs of Confucianism. Jews dismiss the distinctive beliefs of Hindus. Naturalists dismiss the distinctive beliefs of all religions. They cannot all be right because they contradict each other. The only way for believers to know which beliefs are right, is to subject their beliefs to the Outsider Test, and attempt to examine the different worldviews fairly, i.e. with the same level of skepticism. From the inside, our claims seem true, but from the outside, they may just seem bizarre. The power of the Outsider Test is that it shifts our perspective in a way that makes it easier for us to discover poor arguments and bad reasons for our own beliefs.

Skepticism is to question the truthfulness of claims by subjecting them to systematic investigation. Skepticism is the hallmark of an independent thinker. If, after approaching a truth claim with skepticism, it passes the test, then the skeptic has good reasons to accept it.

“The skeptic does not mean him who doubts, but him who investigates or researches, as opposed to him who asserts and thinks that he has found” – Miguel de Unamuno

The amount of skepticism warranted depends on several factors, amongst them:

(1) The number of rational people who disagree: If two epistemic peers have a genuine disagreement about shared evidence, then it is reasonable to suspend judgment about the issue (Feldman, 2007; In: Loftus, 2010).

(2) The origins of the claims: If a belief is initially adopted through an unreliable factor, then extreme skepticism is warranted. Indoctrination is a non-rational (Winn, 2000). Therefore, simply trusting what you have been taught as a child is unreliable.

(3) The nature of the claims: Some claims will warrant more skepticism than others. If a claim does not fit well with our background knowledge (e.g. “I saw a pink elephant”), then we should be extremely skeptical about it. Extraordinary claims warrant extreme skepticism (Loftus, 2010).

Thus, when it comes to religious faiths, a high degree of skepticism is warranted (Loftus, 2010).


The Outsider Test

The most important question when it comes to asserting the truth claims of beliefs – religious, political, philosophical, and others – is how we should approach the available evidence. How should we test the faith given to us, or any new faith we may be considering? We should adopt a skeptical predisposition prior to examining evidence and arguments.

At the minimum, you should be willing to subject your beliefs to rigorous scrutiny by reading the best critiques of your beliefs. The Outsider Test challenges you to critically examine the social conditions of how you came to adopt your beliefs. You should consider who or what influenced you to believe what you believe, and whether those initial reasons were good or bad. Would you have become a Muslim had your parents been Muslims?

If you refuse to take the Outsider Test, then you must justifying having such a double standard. Why are you more critical to others beliefs than you are to your own? If you think this test is unfair, then you have the burden of proof to show why your approach to the diversity of beliefs is justified. If, after having investigated your own beliefs with the presumption of skepticism, they pass the intellectual test, then you can keep them, and if not, then you should abandon them (Loftus, 2010). If God is all-loving then he will want us to find the truth, and not punish us for testing our beliefs. There is no belief that should be immunized from the Outsider Test.

"Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear" – Thomas Jefferson


Reference:

Altemeyer, B. & Hunsberger, B. (1997). Amazing Conversions: Why some Turn to Faith, and others Abandon Religion. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.

Hogg, M. A. & Vaughan, G. M. (2005). Social Psychology (4. edition). England: Pearson Education Limited.

Humphrey, N. F. (1998). What Shall We Tell the Children? Social Research, 65(4); 777-805.

Loftus, J. (2008). Why I Became an Atheist. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.

Loftus, J. (2010). The Outsider Test for Faith Revisited. In: Loftus, J. (Ed.). The
Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails
. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.

Pedersen, J. B. (1976). Indoktrinering. Hvad er det for noget? Danmark: Gyldendal.

Tønnessen, F. E. (1983). Verdier og livssyn i skole og barnehage. Oslo: Cappelen.

Winn, D. (2000). The Manipulated Mind: Brainwashing, Conditioning and Indoctrination. Cambridge: Malor Book.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Debates on Religion


Here is a list of some debates on religion. Most of them about the existence of God.

Common Sense Atheism has the most complete list of debates on the web: here.

There is a blog devoted to reviewing such debates: Agnostic Popular Front.


Aigbusted vs. Justin Martyr
Is Faith Rational Without Evidence? (text)

Alan Keyes vs. Alan Dershowiz
Religion a Solution to the Worlds Problems? (text)

American Atheists vs. J.P. Holding
Was Jesus an Historical Figure? (text)

American Atheists vs. Rabbi Jeret
Is There a God? (text)

Arnold Gumiski vs. Jim Cook
Moral Argument for God’s Existence (text)

Australian Skeptics vs. Answers in Genesis
Evolution or Creationism? (text)

Bart Ehrman vs. N. T. Wright
Is Our Pain God’s Problem? (text)

Bart Ehrman vs. James White
Can the NT be Inspired in Light of Textual Variation? (text)

Bart Ehrman vs. William Lane Craig
Resurrection of Jesus? (text)

Bertrand Russell vs. Copleston
The Existence of God (text)

Bill Cooke vs. Imran Aijaz
Existence of God (text)

ChyberShy vs. Boshko
Existence of the Biblical God (text)

Chris Stassen vs. Bob Bales
Age of the Earth (text)

Christopher Hitchens vs. Douglas Wilson
Is Christianity Good for the World? (text)

Christopher Hitchens vs. Kenneth Miller
Does Science Make Belief in God Obsolete? (text)

Christopher Hitchens vs. Alistair McGrath
Religious Belief in the Modern World (text)