Randal Rauser on religious consensus

It's been a really long time since I wrote a post on one of Randal Rauser's arguments. But as luck would have it, it's a lazy Saturday, I was perusing his blog, and I found a recent post of his in which he links to the following video:
Do watch the video before continuing, because I'm not going to explain what it's about. Instead, I want to systematically address his arguments as well as discuss his response to me on his blog.

Just a heads-up on my own position: I think that the lack of a consensus is a serious problem for Christianity, for several reasons. First, it stands to reason that if holding true belief is integral to one's salvation, and if God loves all his human creations and wants them to be saved, it would be woefully counterproductive for God to allow humans to stumble into a vast number of schisms that often result from disagreements over basic doctrinal beliefs.

Sure, some Christians disagree about which day of the week the Sabbath is supposed t…

What conservatives think liberals believe vs what liberals actually believe

You can't throw a rock at conservative media right now without hitting some kind of fear-mongering about socialism. You see, the liberals are coming, and they're all socialists who want to tax you into oblivion, create dependency on the government, and make the government as large and intrusive as possible. Conservatives paint themselves as business-friendly by advocating for deregulation, tax cuts, fiscal responsibility, and privatization.

It doesn't take much effort to look at the history of conservative governance to see that this idealism doesn't play out. "Deregulation" is essentially code for "erosion of consumer protections to favor the profiteering of multinational corporations." The advocates of "fiscal responsibility" don't seem to mind that Trump is running a nearly $1 trillion deficit.

I could go on, and on. But I want to talk about the fear-mongering over liberalism, because it's not new. The notion that liberals contr…

Is the media liberally biased?

As long as I can remember in my 40 years on Earth, conservatives have claimed that the "mainstream media" is liberally biased and cannot be trusted to be objective. This has spawned a sprawling conservative media ecosystem - Daily Wire, Daily Caller, Brietbart, Fox News, Pluralist, The Federalist, etc. - which views itself as a bulwark against the onslaught of liberal media.

There's a really big problem with that claim, though - there's really not much evidence for it outside of peoples' own perception. You probably would not be surprised to learn that most of what is viewed as "biased" depends strongly on one's political leanings.

Worse, it's essentially an unfalsifiable claim. During the 2016 elections, Snopes was widely derided as a "liberal" news source despite the fact that it's simply a fact-checking website that cites all of its sources in every article. Conservatives even think Wikipedia is liberally biased, and I'm sur…

Ben Shapiro and the culture of conservative privilege

I remember reading the quote in which Ben Shapiro said "People who are poor their entire lives are just bad with money." Then there was the classic that if sea levels rose and started flooding homes in coastal cities, people could just "sell their houses and move" because apparently Aquaman is in the homeowners market (thanks, hbomberguy). And then recently was the comment that if a job isn't paying a living wage, you should just go get a higher paying job - like higher incomes are something you just go out and get, like milk and cheese or a MAGA hat. Shaprio called working for less than a living wage "a you problem."

The stupidity and willful ignorance of such comments should be so obvious as to not even require discussion. And yet, here we are. And tempting though it may be to pin Shaprio as uniquely obtuse, these comments show a trend that's prevalent in right-wing media: the struggles of the poor and working class are consistently framed as a f…

Ballsy idea of the day: "the mind" does not exist

I have this crazy, far-out idea: we should stop talking about "the mind" as though it is some kind of object or thing that has to be "explained."

The problem is that conceptualizing mental phenomena as "the mind" presupposes that there are properties distinct from the physical brain - i.e., mental properties - that need to be explained in some way. Here's an alternative. Instead of characterizing mental processes as "the mind," we can use the empirically-responsible term: cognition. Cognition is the process of brain activity. It includes perception, language, metaphor, memory, and decision-making.

Why is this little semantic change a big deal? Because cognition is an empirical, scientific term. It accounts for all the above phenomena - all the things we associate with conscious experience. They are all derived from neurological activity in the brain.

With this conceptual reframing, we can do away with a few superfluous assumptions that are c…

Some follow-up reflections on William Lane Craig's response to my post

After writing my post yesterday, I was thinking about some of the things Dr. Craig said in his response to me. The more I thought about them, the more I started to think I may have been a little too kind in my response.

Craig employed a few tactics that I frankly find to be disingenuous - the kind of thing someone might do if they want to 'win' on rhetoric without substantively addressing the arguments at hand.

1. His own comments were vague, and he leveraged that ambiguity to assert that his point was "obvious."

Craig's basic argument was that in principle, no physical object can exhibit "intentionality." But that's not what he said; instead, he mentioned simple objects like chairs and rocks, and then referred to the human brain - the single most complex biological object known to exist - as a "gob of tissue." I'm not sure why he would take that course if the complexity of physical objects wasn't part of his argument. He could have…

Life after divorce part 2: it gets better

I went through a strange phase after my divorce. Immediately after, it was a sense of relief. I wasn't coming home every day to a stressful and emotionally draining situation. I was in a great new house, I had my dogs, and I'm fortunate to have a lot of wonderful, supportive friends.

In time, around when I wrote my previous post, I was starting to feel, for lack of a better term, homesick. My new house felt kind of foreign, like I was taking an extended stay at a hotel. I began to miss all the little things my wife and I used to do - pizza or cheap Chinese food nights, fancy brunch or dinner dates (she and I are both foodies), walks with the dogs, trips to the park, traveling, hiking, etc. etc.

I resolved to just keep taking care of myself. Spending time with good friends and family, training hard, playing guitar, reading, etc. etc. And it's funny, but good things come. The pain of loss subsides. I'm still grieving, and I expect I will be for a while, but it's far …