Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Moral Grammar as Innate

Today's nytimes.com has an article called "An Evolutionary Theory of Right and Wrong." Marc D. Hauser, a Harvard biologist, has built on this idea to propose that people are born with a moral grammar wired into their neural circuits by evolution. Hauser presents his argument as a hypothesis to be proved, not as an established fact. All persons, in all times and places, have an innate "moral grammar."

I find this thesis interesting. It will argue against moral relativism. And, I believe it has implications for the biblical idea found in Romans 2:15, which states that "the requirements of the law are written on [our] hearts."

Of course Hauser does not think God has written a moral grammar in our hearts. But he does think an innate, universal moral grammar is in our hearts. And he is working to show how evolution has placed it there.

Hauser's work "challenges the general belief that moral behavior is learned." Rather, it is given to us, or is in us, at birth. The moral "law" unfolds during our lifetime. In this sense it is discovered, rather than invented.

Monday, October 30, 2006

God Delusion #12 - Wired

This past weekend I picked up the latest Wired magazine, with its provocative cover on "The New Atheism." The article is mostly about the Big 3 evangelists of atheism (Dawkins, Harris, & Dennett) plus a sidebar on atheists Penn & Teller.

God Delusion #11 - Terry Eagleton rips Dawkins

See Terry Eagleton's scathing review of Dawkins' GD here. Especially relevant is the [easy] exposure of Dawkins' deep ignorance of the real theological discussion re. God.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

God Delusion #10 - Dawkins' Straw Men Exposed

For a really fun exchange in which Dawkins comes out looking pretty bad, see his radio debate with Irish journalist David Quinn. Go here.

Ladd's Gospel of the Kingdom Online

I am currently teaching, at my church, George Ladd's excellent book The Gospel of the Kingdom. You can access chapters 1-5 here.

God Delusion #9 - The NYT Book Review

In my next Dawkins' GD entry I'll look at how he butchers understanding the Ontological Argument.

But for now see today's review of GD in nytimes.com. It's a pretty good review, pointing out a number of emotive and illogical things Dawkins does in the book.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

CT Interview with Greg Boyd

Here's a good Christianity Today article/interview with Greg Boyd on his book The Myth of a Christian Nation.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

God Delusion # 8 - Causality in Esse

Dawkins criticism of Aquinas' cosmological argument fails because he does not understand the argument, and the distinction between causality in fieri and causality in esse. This distinction is taught in any basic philosophy of religion class, but Dawkins is ignorant of it. That does not mean the argument ultimately succeeds, but it does establish that Dawkins does nothing to refute it. Dawkins sets up a straw man and succeeds in knocking it down.

Further, Dawkins needs to come to grips with the Kalam Cosmological Argument. This argument does not only argue more successfully for God than does Aquinas, it also gives reasons to consider the cause of the universe as having the attributes of God.

God Delusion # 7 - The Mind Reader

Dawkins writes: "I simply cannot believe that Gould could possibly have meant much of what he wrote in Rocks of Ages." (57)

Just before that Dawkins quotes Martin Rees and then says Rees probably didn't really mean what he wrote. (56-57)

Now I am seeing that these psychological intuitions are things Dawkins often has. If Dawkins finds a scientist who says something he does not like he can simply say "They didn't really mean that" or, "If they were alive today they would never believe that."

Dawkins appears to be so narrowly locked into his particular naturalistic paradigm that he literally cannot envision another scientist affirming religion.

God Delusion # 6 - A False Dichotomy

Dawkins sets up a false dichotomy between Stephen Jay Gould's "NOMA" and "science."

"NOMA" means "non-overlapping magisteria." Gould writes: "The magisterium of science covers the empirical realm... The magisterium of religion extends over questions of ultimate meaning and moral value. Thes two magisteria do not overlap." (In GD, 55) Gould's view is a form of methodological naturalism.

Dawkins believes in only one "magisterium"; viz., empirical reality. The empirical realm is the only realm there is. By definition. Or, by faith, or by something. Dawkins' view is known as metaphysical naturalism.

Why accept these two choices Dawkins forces on us? NOMA states that the magisterium of science has nothing to do with religion; Dawkinsian science says religion is nothing. Of course Dawkins rejects NOMA. Therefore, religion studies nothing real.

But there is a third alternative, which is: overlapping magisteria. One current example is Francis Collins, a geneticist who directs the Human Genome Project. In his book The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, Collins desribes his conversion from atheism to theism and his discovery that there is "a richly satisfying harmony between the scientific and spiritual worldviews." This is neither NOMA, nor metaphysical naturalism, but rather OMA.

Scientists like Collins genuinely puzzle Dawkins, who is so ensconced in his metaphysical naturalism that such a third alternative does not even compute.

NOTE: For a critique of methodological naturalism see U. of Notre Dame philosopher Alvin Plantinga.

Friday, October 06, 2006

God Delusion #5 - The Fallacy of Suppressed Evidence

In GD ch. 2, p, 45, Dawkins argues as follows:

1) Atheists are hated and misunderstood in America.
2) It is "virtually impossible for an honest atheist to win a public election in America."
3) There are 535 elected leaders in the House and Senate.
4) Therefore, "it is statistically all but inevitable that a substantial number of them must be atheists."

Huh? Dawkins' conclusion does not follow from Premises 1-3. Dawkins "reasoning" commits the fallacy of suppressed evidence.

Atheists AND agnostics comprise 12% of the American population. The cited article says that such statistics are hard to come by.

It's precisely such evidence that is suppressed by Dawkins. And such evidence may be hard to obtain especially if, as Dawkins suggests so far in his book, there are atheists in America hiding in the closet out of fear of hatred and misunderstanding.

At most all I can ascertain from this kind of "logic" is that Dawkins himself has a psychological certainty that such must be the case. He "feels" it is "all but inevitable."

God Delusion #4 - Anachronistic Displacement

Dawkins, in ch. 2 of GD, talks about America's founding fathers. Dawkins is correct in stating that many of them were deists. But then he writes: "Certainly their writings on religion in their own time leave me in no doubt that most of them would be atheists in our own."

But this is anachronistic reasoning. Now I am thinking that this is the same thing that Dawkins did with Einstein, trying to get Einstein into his circle of believers. In this case Dawkins recruits the founding fathers as kindred thinkers just like him.

Dawkins thinks himself "rational." So, is this what he means by "rationality?"

Or perhaps [:)] ... Dawkins is afflicted with anachronistic displacement, "a psychological condition referring to an obsessive or dysfunctional belief or claim that a person "belongs" or should properly exist in another time period"?

I know that as I continue reading GD I need to be on alert for this kind of "reasoning" so as to quickly dismiss it.

God Delusion #3 - Emerson

Dawkins begins GD ch. 2 with a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson says, "The religion of one age is the literary entertainment of the next."

Not really. (Emerson might have wished this were so...)

God Delusion #2 - Einstein was a atheist

Dawkins, in GD, co-opts Albert Einstein as an atheist. Dawkins writes: "Einstein sometimes invoked the name of God (and he is not the only atheistic scientist to do so)."

But Einstein was not an atheist. He was once asked, "Do you believe in the God of Spinoza?" Einstein responded: "I can't answer with a simple yes or no. I'm not an atheist and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist."

I believe Dawkins is correct when he says that Einstein did not believe God was a "personal" being. But it is an intellectual leap to then infer that Einstein was a "naturalist" just like Dawkins.

One must study most specifically what Einstein meant when he said he did not believe in a personal God. Part of what he means here is that he is against anthropomorphism. And, despite his protests, it seems accurate to associate his ideas about God with Spinoza's pantheism.

Einstein once said, "I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings." Spinoza, strictly speaking, did not identify "God" with "Nature." Here see his distinction re. the two sides of Nature: Natura naturans and Natura naturata ("Nature naturing" and "Nature natured"). See also here.

Spinoza believed in God. And, it must be pointed out, his belief was in a nonanthropomorphic, thus in his mind radically Jewish, God. Einstein "believ[ed] in Spinoza's God." Thus Dawkins errs in conflating Einstein's views about God with his own naturalistic atheism.

But why does Dawkins even need Einstein in his atheistic camp? Why does he work so hard (but not hard enough) to call Einstein one of his own? The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, in its article "Pantheism," says: "With some exceptions, pantheism is non-theistic, but it is not atheistic. It is a form of non-theistic monotheism, or even non-personal theism." Since Dawkins refers to himself as an atheist, he is not a non-theistic monotheist, nor is he a non-personal theist. Einstein was.

God Delusion #1

I began reading Richard Dawkins' new book The God Delusion. I'm going to - hopefully - post my thoughts about this book as I read through it.

I can't get past page 1. Dawkins writes: "I suspect - well, I am sure - that there are lots of people out there who have been brought up in some religion or other, are unhappy in it, don't believe it, or are worried about the evils that are done in its name; people who feel vague yearnings to leave their parents' religion and wish they could, but just don't realize that leaving is an option."

But how can Dawkins "be sure" of this? Does he have empirical evidence to support this? He gives none, so why should we accept his "sureness" of this?

He shares his "delight" when a British television advertisment showed the World Trade Center with the caption "Imagine a world without religion." Then, Dawkins writes: "Imagine, with John Lennon, a world with no religion." Does he mean a John Lennon-ish world? I hope not. Lennon's son Julian writes this of his father: "I didn't hate him but I was scared of him. I didn't know this man at all, and trying to rebuild a relationship that was never there made him as frighened of me as I was of him." Julian adds, "He wasn't a great father." Julian's step-father became his real father. Julian writes: "A lot of people don't like to hear that but on my behalf it's true." Julian saw his dad only 10 times before he was murdered.

As I skimmed through GD I saw a lot of the Dawkins' anger coming out in ad hominem abusives. Dawkins is a humorous, degrading guy. If this is atheism I know I don't want a world where Dawkins and John Lennon are the models.

For what the lives of some famous atheists were really about, see Paul Johnson's Intellectuals. Read, for example, of the perverted behavior of the great atheist Bertrand Russell.

For the record: I don't want to live in a world modeled by myself either. But I do believe this. I am a far, far better person because of my following of Jesus than I was before. And I know many, many Christians who exemplify things I value. Like parenting, for example (contra John Lennon).

Have evils been done in the name of religion? Sadly, of course. Have atheists done "evil" things? Uh-huh. And because the overwhelming majority of persons who now live and have ever lived are religious, and only a tiny group atheist, one would expect to find proportionately more evils perpetrated in the name of religion than in the name of atheism.

Dawkins refers to Lennon's "Imagine" as a "magnificent song." I, on the other hand, think it is filled with hypocrisy.

"Imagine all the people living life in peace.
...I hope some day you'll join us and the world will be as one."

Unfortunately for Lennon's own son Julian that "world" did not include him.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Now Reading...

I just picked up Richard Dawkins' new book The God Delusion. For a video interview with Dawkins about this book see here.

For the recent Newsweek article called "The New Naysayers: In the Midst of Religious Revival, Three Scholars Argue that Atheism is Smarter," see here. It's mostly about the current "big 3" of atheism: Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett.

My intent is to make various comments on my take on the Dawkins book and post them here.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Science and Logic of Personhood

There is a very good article on the logic of personhood as beginning at conception at nationalreviewonline. It's written by Patrick Lee of Franciscan University of Steubenville and Robert P. George of Princeton.

Consider this excerpt: "In defending embryonic human life, we have pointed out that every human adult was once an embryo, just as he or she was once an adolescent, and befofre that a child, and before that an infant, and before that a fetus. This is not a religious claim or a piece of metaphysical speculation. It is a human fact. The complete human organism - the whole living member of the species Homo sapiens - that is, for example, you the reader, is the same human individual that at an earlier point in his or her life was an adolescent, a child, an infant, a fetus, am embryo."

"Human embryos do not differ in kind from (other) human beings; rather, they differ from other human beings merely in respect of their stage of development."

Thus, there is no "point in time" (such as the moment of "viability") where suddenly the fetus "becomes a person."

The argument against abortion then runs logically like this:

1. The fetilized egg is a person.
2. Every person has a right to life.
3. Therefore the fertilized egg has a right to life.