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God doesn’t obviously not exist.

Welcome Facebook friends and others who have stumbled upon this post. I’ve had my blog for a while, and if you look through you’ll see old philosophy papers and 1 blog entry from my Scotland travels. See the post prior to this one if you’re interested in knowing what I hope to make this blog about now.

With that explanation, I’m going to defend this statement in this post: “God doesn’t obviously not exist.”

Now, before we get into a kerfuffle about semantics and double negatives, let me explain myself. Primarily, I am NOT saying “It is obvious that God exists.” Really, I am saying “It isn’t obvious that God does not exist.” If somebody really wanted me to put it positively, I would say “It might be that God does exist.”

This is the argument I’ll use to defend that statement:

  1. If “x” is believed by a fair amount of respected intellectuals, then “x” is not obviously false.
  2. “God exists” is believed by a fair amount of respected intellectuals.
  3. “God exists” is not obviously false.

I’ll begin defending this argument starting with the easiest objections and working my way toward the most difficult. In doing so, I’ll start at 3 and work my way back to 1.

And so we begin with 3, the conclusion. If 1 and 2 are both true, then 3 MUST be true. You logically cannot say “I agree with 1 and 2, but I don’t gather 3 from that.” It would be nonsensical. Thus, in order to attack 3, you must defeat 1 or 2. Think of 3 as the king’s chambers, and 2 or 1 as the moat/draw bridge. And if you want to impress your friends with some Latin, make arguments like the above and throw ‘modus ponens’ around next time you fight about whether the NCAA football playoff system will actually work in 2014.

Ok, we’ve made it through the “breathe in / breathe out” of our philosophical work-out warm-up. Now let’s get to stretching.

In regard to 2, the first thing I’ll address is my use of “fair amount.” I completely concede that this is an arbitrary statement. Is “fair amount” 4 or 4,000? I won’t attempt to answer that. I will say, whatever the number, I think it’s enough to make 2 true. Enough, that I’ve seen readily available public evidence for respected intellectuals believing God exists. Enough, that it isn’t out of the ordinary for respected intellectuals to believe God exists (people that believe so henceforth referred to as ‘theists.’) If any person reading this still just doesn’t believe me, here’s a short list of respected intellectuals that were/are, at the least, theists.

Isaac Newton

Galileo Galilei

Michael Behe (biochemist & author of “Darwin’s Black Box”)

C.S. Lewis (Literary academic)

Gregor Mendel (pioneer in the field of Genetics; priest)

Alvin Plantinga (philosopher)

Francis Collins (former director of the National Human Genome Research Institute; his own testimony here (originally found at godandscience.org)à
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ml0FqyFYfrU)

William P. Alston (philosopher)

Richard Swinburne (philosopher)

Christopher Langan (a guy with a super high IQ)

Thomas Reid (philosopher; pastor)

Other scientists here: http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/sciencefaith.html (I can’t attest to the truth of this list)

Other philosophers here: http://rationalperspective.wordpress.com/theistic-philosophers/ (I can attest to the truth of all of the Baylor names on the list, as I studied under / went to church with several of them and knew enough about the others)

….

And that takes care of #2. Now, ON TO THE REAL WORK OUT, the defense of premise #1: “If ‘x’ is believed by a fair amount of respected intellectuals, then ‘x’ is not obviously false.”

Note 1 – As stated above, “Not obviously false” is NOT the same as “obviously true.”

Note 2 – “Respected intellectuals” is key. I’m not just saying “hey, if lots of people believe something, it’s not obviously false.” The fact that a belief is carried by a large number of people doesn’t necessarily give that belief merit, though it might have merit for other reasons. However, I think there’s something different to be said when a number of respected intellectuals believe something. When I presented this argument to a few friends, one of them noted that it used to be the case that everybody thought the world was flat, even intellectuals, and that was a point against my argument. However, the idea that the Earth is spherical wasn’t simply brought up in conversation some day and then decided on. After MUCH scientific thought and MUCH debate, it became accepted that the Earth was (and still is) spherical. A lot of us don’t know the proofs that were used to prove the shape of the Earth, we just trusted our history teacher when they told us that somebody proved it was true. I think this is an argument FOR my thought. There are intellectuals that believe God exists and provide solid arguments for that belief, much like intellectuals provided solid arguments for the spherical shape of the Earth.

Many respected intellectuals are those who have done heavy research/thinking in their field, be it science, philosophy, sociology, literature, etc. I think 1) we can trust that those who have thought hard about other subjects would think hard about their personal convictions and would not just accept any belief, and 2) several of the researchers listed above are those who have done critical thinking on this very belief in the existence of God. If critically thinking people accept theism as a viable belief, and if some of these critically thinking people have provided viable arguments for their belief, then it seems irresponsible to call that belief “obviously false” without addressing those arguments.

Note 3 – This argument could easily apply to other beliefs, such as atheistic belief, other religious beliefs, and various political beliefs. My argument isn’t meant to be an airtight argument for the existence of God. It’s simply meant to demonstrate that theistic belief shouldn’t be shrugged off as stupid or simplistic, and I think that’s the tendency of many people in present-day America. There are many atheists that are kind enough to respect religious belief. However, the loudest atheists seem to me to be the ones that think Christianity has no reasonable epistemic foothold in this world. I’d mainly like for the “loud” atheists to simmer down and have a conversation. The same goes for “loud” Christians who seem to think atheism is flat out stupid. There are arguments for and against religious belief, and both sides should recognize that.

All of that said, I think it’s understandable if a person doesn’t believe in God. While my convictions and experience make me desire for every person to believe in and experience God, there are reasons to be skeptical. There is also good evidence that points to God’s existence. Either way, it just isn’t the case that the belief is obvious in one way or the other, and I think that’s the way God intended it.

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I’m back!

After a hiatus, I’ve returned to the blogosphere.  In the time that I’ve been gone, I’ve graduated college, gotten married, and begun teaching mathematics to high school crazies.

Throughout this time I’ve discovered that my thoughts involving the existence of God, clarity of Christian belief, and legitimacy of both have never ceased.  Most of my mental time that is not occupied by day to day activities is occupied by thoughts on the above.  I legitimately enjoy reading deep concentrated works regarding such philosophical and theological matters.  In college I often wondered if I really enjoyed reading philosophy or if it was just a sophomoric version of myself telling me that I enjoyed it.  Thankfully, I must’ve actually enjoyed it (and still do!). Thus, I’m going to recommit my blog to these things for a few reasons:

1) As noted above, I enjoy thinking about such matters

2) I feel like the world has been inundated with those who believe these thoughts (that God exists and that Christianity is true) are “obviously false,” and I’d like to be a drop in the ocean in the other regard. Also, by “world,” I think I mean “my world.” I don’t intend on demonstrating that the existence of God or that Christian belief is obviously true, but I do hope to demonstrate that both are not obviously false.

3) As I prepare to embark on further schooling, it wouldn’t be half bad to begin organizing thoughts into coherent creations.

4) While I’m not looking for a “following,” I would like to be part of conversations regarding these matters both with those who agree and disagree. (This joins with #1 pretty well also.) I could just read the blogs of others, but that wouldn’t be nearly as much of an impetus to create my own writing.

 

I’m hoping this blog will reflect some of the reading I’ve done / will be doing, and I hope the conversations that come from it will direct me to further edifying material and thought on the same front.

Frankfurt vs. Widerker–Is Jones REALLY morally culpable for killing Smith, or did the Devil (Black) make him do it?

I haven’t been as consistent on posting these papers as I would have liked.  However, this is only due to the fact that some of them really aren’t that interesting, or I wasn’t too proud of my work.  This week’s, however, goes on my refrigerator of all-time-great assignments. 

I thought long and hard about my objection, and I even had quite the scuffle with my roommate (who is in the class as well) about whether it was a valid objection or not.  Ultimately, I received an “excellent work” comment and “A” from our metaphysician genius professor. (Seriously a genius.  Holds a Ph.D. in both Math and Philosophy—had each before he was 28.)

Without further ado…

Widerker’s Defense of the Principle of Alternate Possibilities

In “Libertarianism and Frankfurt’s Attack on the Principle of Alternate Possibilities” David Widerker makes a defense of the principle of alternate possibilities (PAP): A man is held morally culpable for his actions only if he could have done otherwise. Harry Frankfurt’s attempt to demonstrate that PAP is false results in a conclusion which Widerker labels as IRR.

IRR: A man can be in a situation where he performs an action and could not have done otherwise, although the situation does not necessarily cause his performance of the specified action.

To make IRR more clear, Frankfurt puts forth a thought experiment in which there is a man, Black, who has great clarity in determining whether another person will decide to carry out a certain action or not. He is also capable of forcing others to carry out actions (be it through threat or some other manner). Black wants another man, Smith, dead. A third man, Jones, desires to kill Smith, but he has not yet decided whether to kill Smith or not. Black waits for Jones to decide. If Jones decides to kill Smith, then Black does nothing and allows the situation to carry itself out. If Jones decides not to kill Smith, then Black forces him to do so anyway through his unavoidable threats. Thus, Jones only has the option of killing Smith. However, it seems clear that if Jones decides to kill Smith of his own accord, then he is morally culpable. If he decides not to kill Smith and is forced by Black to commit the murder, then he is not morally culpable. Thus, Jones could not have done otherwise, but might still be held morally culpable depending on whether he chose to kill Smith on his own or not.

Widerker makes the following argument against IRR:

1. Jones’s signifying of his decision (e.g. blushing) to kill Smith is either causally sufficient for his actually killing Smith or it is not causally sufficient for his actually killing Smith.

2. If Jones’s signifying of his decision (e.g. blushing) to kill Smith is causally sufficient for his actually killing Smith, then the scenario does not stand as an IRR scenario (Premise from IRR).

3. If Jones’s signifying of his decision to kill Smith is not causally sufficient for his actually killing Smith, then Jones might have done otherwise (and thus the scenario does not follow IRR). (Premise)

4. If (1), then the scenario does not stand as an IRR scenario or Jones might have done otherwise (and thus the scenario does not follow IRR) (from 1,2,3 Simple Dilemma).

Because of (4), Widerker notes that Frankfurt has not given a plausible example of IRR, and thus still has work to do in order to falsify PAP.

However, I have qualms with (2) in Widerker’s argument. It might be noted that Widerker even strengthens (2) in his article by noting that even if Jones’s signifying of his decision to kill Smith (e.g. blushing) signifies (as opposed to simply being) a causally sufficient state for his actually killing Smith, then the scenario does not stand as an IRR scenario. In the thought experiment, Jones’s blushing signifies his decision to kill Smith[1]. It seems that it must be the case that Jones’s deciding to kill Smith would qualify as a casually sufficient state under which Jones kills Smith. If Jones’s decision to kill Smith does not qualify as a casually sufficient state, then it might be said that Jones has no control over his actions. For if Jones decided to do one thing but then actually did another or did nothing at all, he would be quite perplexed at the fact that his will is so inefficacious. However, this causally sufficient state is not one that is brought about by the external circumstances. The causally sufficient state is brought about by Jones’s thought process. Thus, it does not violate IRR.


[1] If Jones’s blushing is not taken as a signifier of Jones’s decision, then Widerker might be said to contradict his own thoughts on decision making being a simple mental action. But that is not within the scope of this paper.

 

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

In re-reading the paper, I realize how much could be expounded upon.  Let it be known that we are only allowed two pages for metaphysics assignments, and I simply have too much to do to go about adding to this paper.  I’ll save that brain power for future assignments.  However, if you have questions, feel free to place them in the comments.  I know I’m gaining readers by the thousands, so it’s a crazy suggestion, but I’m willing anyway (kidding—I am grateful for the three/four loyal readers I have).

Don’t be too concerned if you misunderstand some parts.  While the paper is meant for any person to understand (as is the nature of the assignment), it’s really not realistic to explain some of these concepts in such a small space.  I hope you enjoyed it in some manner.  I really enjoyed the mental workout it took to write the paper.

Reidentifying the Ship of Theseus

In my metaphysics class we have to write one 2-page paper each week.  This is my paper which I turned in last week.  I’ll post each of my papers on here throughout the semester.  This will help my blog become more cohesive.  Don’t fret if you don’t understand or find the posts boring.  While I didn’t do so with the essay below, I’ll try to make them more reader friendly from now on.  It’s difficult to do so with such logical outlining (a requirement for the class), but I’ll try nonetheless. Also, I’ll probably be posting Philosophy of Religion essays and thesis work as well.  Those should be a bit more enjoyable to read.

*Begin Essay*

In “How to Reidentify the Ship of Theseus”, the problem is one of identity. At the start, Bombos brings his ship, X, in for repair at dock A[1]. Ship X is made up of 1000 old planks. It will be repaired with 1000 new planks. Upon completion of repairs, the ship in dock A (presently X) will be called ship Y. Additionally, Morion orders a ‘new’ ship, Z, which will be constructed out of 1000 used planks at dock B. The construction process is as follows: One plank is removed from ship X in dock A each hour and replaced by a new plank, while the removed plank is placed in dock B as a part of ship Z. After 1000 hours of labor, ships Y in dock A and Z in dock B are completed.

The problem arises when ship Z is destroyed. An argument ensues over who might take ownership of ship Y in dock A. Bombos claims ownership of the ship due to the fact that it has occupied the same space-time line as ship X, his original ship, and Morion claims ownership due to the fact that is compiled of new parts and is thus a ‘new’ ship, just as he ordered. The concluding argument for ownership of the ship is as follows:

1. Ship X is in ownership of Bombos

2. Ship X is comprised of 1000 planks

3. Every hour, one plank is removed from ship X in dock A and replaced by a new plank

4. Every hour, the removed plank is placed onto ship Z

5. Ship Y is the product of 1000 new planks having been placed on ship X

6. After 1000 hours ship Y stands in dock A (3 and 5)

7. The identity of a ship is knowable by the identity of its parts

8. Ship X is composed of ‘currently parts of ship X’

9. Any plank removed from ship X is considered one of ‘previously parts of ship X’

10. ‘Previously parts of ship X’ are not equal to ‘currently parts of ship X’ (8 and 9)

11. Ship Z is composed of ‘previously parts of ship X’ (4 and 9)

12. Ship Z cannot be identified as ship X (7,8,10,11)

13. Ship Y is composed of ‘currently parts of ship X’

14. Ship X is identical with ship Y (8 and 13)

15. Ship Y is in ownership of Bombos (1 and 12)

This argument, and the article as a whole, aids in problems with identity. However, the conclusion of the argument is largely based on the fact that planks were replaced one by one. What if the planks were replaced two by two or three by three? Even more so, what if the planks were replaced five hundred by five hundred? There would seem to be a real problem as to the identity of ship X if the latter were the case. Thus, in this argument, the identity of an entity seems to be distinguished by the majority of its parts at one time.


[1] Smart, Brian. “How to Reidentify the Ship of Thesus.” Analysis, Vol. 32, No. 5 (Apr., 1972), pp. 145-148. Oxford University Press. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3327760

A mid-year resolution concerning occasional random resolutions

On occasion, I encounter periods of the year in which I begin to tell myself that I should:

– Spend more time in scripture

– Spend more time with others

– Have a cleaning overhaul with my room

– Take my schooling more seriously

– Work-out more

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it is representative of those things which I think about most.  Recently, I had one of these periods.  However, I’ve decided that I’ll go about addressing it a bit differently this time.  Rather than attempting to read my bible for a billion hours in a week to make up for time lost, rather than spending every free moment with friends I’d like to catch up with, and rather than cleaning ever little corner in my room, I’m going to attempt to gradually increase the desired item every day (or when possible).

There are tons of clichés out there about humans and habits and such, so I intend on making subtle changes which are easy to keep up with until they become habitual.  When I feel like I have achieved or nearly reached a point of habit in one area, then I will reassess whether it might be improved more.

Truth be told, I’ve already begun this, so I don’t know why I’m blogging about it now.  I don’t know why I’m blogging about it at all really.  It’s hardly related to what I intend for this blog to be, as I mentioned in my last post (or some post that I forgot to publish).

I guess I’m just trying to keep my portion of the internet from getting dusty. When that’s habitual, then I’ll start writing about things that matter. Smile

I promise this is up and running—speaking of running!

An unrelated beginning note: One day I hope to make my blog posts more consistent in content (it’ll most likely be on Philosophy of Religion discoveries or Theological/Church ponderings, as I DO hope to be a pastor some day), and I also hope to make them more regular in occurrence. Life as a student, especially in that I’m currently studying abroad, is simply not conducive to consistent blogging. That or I don’t find it important enough to write one consistently. This blog began simply as an e-mail to my older brother. I got carried away. For now, thanks for reading!

As you may know, the Ironman race was started as a competition amongst a few endurance racers from various sports. Several of the competitors served in the military (I was once told that Navy SEALS started the competition, but in reality there were only a few SEAL competitors.)

With Navy SEALS getting all of their recent coverage in the news due to the bin Laden killing, I was just poking around their site to look at entrance requirements and training. Of course, I’d heard about Hell Week on a variety of occasions, so I knew it was intense. And since it’s so intense, I figured that there had to be some sort of “entrance” requirement as far as fitness goes (a fitness requirement much more demanding than any other military branch, given the reputation of SEALS).

I was right… There is a long swim and fairly long run (4-5 miles on the run, if I remember correctly) with strict time requirements (by memory again, I believe the run came out to a little over a 7:30/mile pace) in addition to push-up, sit-up, and pull-up requirements. Come to think of it, that pacing requirement may be at the end of one of the training phases. Even so, it is early in the training, so it’s almost required that you be a seasoned triathlon competitor beforehand to fare well at SEAL training. When investigating the officer route for Navy Seals, I noticed that one bullet point even explicitly encouraged success in competitive athletics.

After all of my perusing, I finally found the “Naval Special Warfare Physical Training Guide.” It’s a ten page (eleven with the title page) document which gives a suggested training plan in great detail. Entailing a balanced anaerobic vs. aerobic regime plus a variety of callisthenic and weight training exercises, the guide is a pretty sweet starter for beginner triathlon competitors, to say the least.

The only thing it lacks is a partnered nutritional guide and flexibility improvement techniques. Once I find those two, I hope to give this thing a fair shot eventually. Though, it may be a while, because for now I plan on training for a 100 mile bike race with Matt (Faus) which will occur at the end of this summer. While the guide contains a 26 week schedule, it also provides a method for creating your own schedule. It only requires that you maintain two Long distance, interval, and continual high intensity work outs for each week (which means six days of working out). All of those terms are explained in the guide as well. 

I think this guide could serve as a great springboard for an Ironman training program, which is why I was initially e-mailing Matt, but there are books solely devoted to that. Go look at the guide bro, and tell me what you think / how it stacks up to materials you might currently be using for your triathlon(s).

Here’s a link to the guide.

Bus-Train-Train-Bus-Walk-Missed Bus-Taxi-HIKE-Bus-Train-Train-Bus

If I didn’t call myself a fairly flexible person before coming to Scotland, then I would rightfully do so now.  Though I’m definitely the “planning type,” I’ve never found myself highly incapable of adjusting.

The title of this post is the order of transportation our group of 15 took this past Saturday in order to arrive at and depart from an amazing Hike on Ben Ledi Mountain near the town of Callander, Scotland in “Stirlingshire.”  I find it extremely enjoyable that “shire” is in the name of the state/county (whichever they’d designate here), given that the scenery on the hike was comparable to the marvelous landscaping described in the books and depicted in the movies of Lord of the Rings.

Returning to the focal point of the blog, however, our transportation on Saturday doesn’t seem to be the only thing that has been so sporadic. The weather for today, which was forecasted as rain/snow, has followed this line of occurrences: rain-clouds-SUN-rain-clouds-rain-sleet-clouds-rain-SUN.  I capitalize the sun because it reflects my personal excitement upon seeing it.  As of yesterday, the ten day forecast was nothing but rain or snow. Therefore, today I took advantage of that initial Sun (around 12:15pm) to go for a short run on the beach.  I wish I had a picture from the beach this morning.  The temperature combined with the humidity from the previous rain caused a strange effect in the visibility.  While “fog” would be a justifiable term for it, I just don’t think it’s exactly right.  Whatever the case, it was cool.

The third and final example of my growth in (or demonstration of) flexibility comes in the need to take multiple trips to the library.  Short Loan = Satan.  The Short Loan system at St. Andrews libraries allows for four hours of book use before return is necessary (unless it’s past a certain time of the day, in which case the book is due back the next day or on Monday if the present day is Friday).  Because of this, my schedule today has been the following: Wake-sleep-wake-library-read-run-lunch-library-read-library-room.  My second trip to the library was more like a continuation of the run discussed earlier though.  I got out of the shower at 1:36.  The book was due at 1:46.  I’m not one for late fees, even if I do look a bit odd running through the quaint town of St. Andrews. 

All in all, the flexibility required for studying abroad has proved itself to be a fun adventure.  I imagine it will continue, but I’ll do my best to satisfy my brain’s need for a plan anyway. Hopefully I can finish that book I’m reading this time, so as to avoid another day of library sprints.

That said, I’m off to read-notes-read-notes-read-notes-library-dinner.