Showing posts from November, 2014

Christianity makes no sense: the meme gallery


What would it take to change my mind?

This past weekend I had lunch with a buddy of mine who is a devout Christian. He had no idea that I'm an atheist (I don't make a big deal out of it in my day to day life) until he saw me 'like' this Facebook meme:

It was a telling moment in the 'debate', such as it was, when the two were asked what would change their minds. Nye was very specific about how the theory of evolution could be undermined and, though improbable, evidence could emerge that would force him to change his mind. That's the beauty of an evidence-based worldview: your beliefs are contingent on evidence. Ham, meanwhile, stated (in so many words) that he's a Christian and that nothing will change his mind about the truth of the Bible.

I'm reminded of one of William Lane Craig's debates (I can't find the vid, sorry) in which he derided atheists like Richard Dawkins as being "cocksure". This, despite the fact that Dawkins, much like Nye, has said that evidence could…

Closing thoughts on model-dependent realism

Whenever I engage in debates with theists, I'm reminded of Tim Minchin's analogy of such discussions — that two people trying to win a debate while operating from completely different sets of assumptions are like two tennis players trying to score perfectly executed shots from the opposite ends of separate tennis courts. After pouring several hours of writing and research into my previous post, offered as a counter to Steven Jake's dismissal of Model-Dependent Realism (MDR), reading his response this week left me with a feeling like we were two ship captains in battle, and I'd just punched a massive hole in his ship's hull with a blast of broadside cannons — and yet, as his vessel sank and his crew abandoned ship, he stood on the deck shouting, "Haha, you missed!"

It's not that I feel Steven's response fails to adequately rebut my case so much as I feel that it doesn't address my case at all. I wrote my critique with the intention of clarifyin…

Is Model-Dependent Realism "self-refuting"?

Recent comments have prompted me to revisit an old post from semi-regular commenter Steven Jake, from his own blog The Christian Agnostic — which I have to say, despite our constant state of disagreement, I generally find to be one of the more thought-provoking religious blogs I've read.

A couple of posts back, I described myself as a non-eliminative physicalist — that I'm a physicalist because I do not believe in mystic or supernatural forces, and I believe that all phenomena in the known universe, including our consciousness, ultimately terminate in physical forms. But I'm non-eliminative because I believe that there are different levels of description of reality — that different models of reality with different semantic and theoretical frameworks can overlap, and can be equally 'real'.

This came from my relatively recent re-reading of George Lakoff's Philosophy in the Flesh (it's really long and very technical in parts, so you definitely pick up lots of …

Would you recognize yourself in Heaven?

One of the great insights of modern neuroscience is the way that our phenomenological experience can be profoundly and counter-intuitively altered when various regions of the brain do not function properly. You can lose the ability to feel empathy; or, you can retain the ability to feel empathy but lose the intuition for reciprocation (i.e., empathetic behaviors). You can lose the ability to recognize faces, or forget the names of people but remember the names of tools. Your personality can be dramatically altered by variations in your neural composition.

The reason this is counter-intuitive is because we tend to view our personalities, and those of others, as fixed. I am who I am, and that's just the way it is. Joe is the way Joe is, Jane is the way Jane is. If Joe suffers from pathological narcissism or Down's Syndrome, that's just the way Joe is. If Jane is exceptionally compassionate and selfless, that's just the way Jane is.

People do recognize that life experienc…

Non-eliminative physicalism and model-dependent realism (and cake!)

Discussions about philosophy can be exasperating; they're often steeped in esoteric language and can seem pedantic. After all, philosophy isn't something we concern ourselves in our daily lives; we have intuitive, functional ways of going about our day that we adopt without so much as a second thought, and at first blush it seems like philosophy doesn't have much hope of changing much about the human experience. And I suppose that directly, that's true. All my years of reading and discussing philosophy certainly haven't changed much, if anything, about how I live my life on a day to day basis. But it has informed how I think, how I shape and define my beliefs, and how I communicate my ideas with others.

If that seems like an odd way to start a post with an admittedly esoteric and verbose title (I really had no idea how to make it catchy), it's because I can fully understand why someone would look at these topics with a big fat Who gives a shit? Why should you c…