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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

God, gods ... and so-called atheists

This post is a continuation of a long-running discussion between 'Crude' and me (most recently in his post 'Gods, gods, God, god, aliens, agents, designers, and Designers') concerning the efficacy and/or thoroughness of my argument for God by disproof of the denial of God, on the grounds that the existence of human selves disproves the denial (which is sketched here). This is not to say that Gentle Reader's thoughtful comments are unwelcome in this thread.

On the "so-called atheists" of the title, I'll get to that. But, first (you know me), the immediate background.

In his post, 'Crude' said:
...Let's focus on the "naturalism" issue a bit more.

One of my favorite posts by the brilliant Ed Feser is The Trouble with William Paley. Probably one of his less favorite posts, since I've brought it up about ten times during my blog-via-comments phase (Thanks for that summary, Cogitator!). What I find remarkable about it is that Ed's view of "naturalism" seemingly could include lowercase-g gods without issue: Zeus, Thor, etc. Not the God of classical theism, but those "lesser" gods? Sure.

And I've found that many others, including naturalists, seem to take views similar to Ed's. Such that the idea of powerful beings from other planets seeding our planet with life is naturalism (otherwise Francis Crick wasn't a naturalist), just as our living in a simulation is naturalistic (otherwise Nick Bostrom, Sir Martin Rees, and others are flirting with or are committed to non-naturalism), etc. And frankly, once someone is talking about life on our planet, or our entire universe, being the result of an intentional act by a powerful being or beings... really, doesn't that sound like good ol' fashioned polytheism/supernaturalism to you?

Now, there's of course the standard reply. "But those are just powerful aliens! Not gods!" My response is, I fail to see a difference that matters. Ed does have a point that the God of classical theism is quite a different thing, drastically so, than Zeus. I would add that some other conceptions of God (Say, most versions of Brahman, or even Berkeley's God) are also damn different from Zeus. But how different is Zeus and the gods of Olympus from Nick Bostrom's programmer, or even Crick's seeding-the-universe-with-life society? Frankly, not too much. "Degree, not kind", as they say.

Of course, this wreaks havoc on some traditional thoughts about many things, history included. One of the supposed benefits of modern science is that it has aided in banishing superstition, which is of course associated with "supernaturalism". But suddenly that no longer seems to be the case. Take the typical example - "Lightning is caused by thunderbolts hurled by Thor!" But if Thor is a naturalistic being, then that was just a questionable naturalistic hypothesis. And having control over lightning can't itself be sufficient to call someone a supernatural being anyway, or else I just supplied pictorial evidence that the supernatural is real at the start of this post. ...
While I didn't mention it to 'Crude,' that would be one of my least favorite of Feser's posts (and an important reason I don't much read or post comments to his blog any more), because I don't think that he's being fair to the IDists ... or to Paley. For, among other things, he's faulting them for failing to accomplish what it is not even their intention to attempt to accomplish.

Commenting on 'Crude's' post (and making somewhat oblique reference to the on-going discussion/disagreement between us about my argument for God and against God-denial), I said:
It's not just that naturalism can, but that it *does* logically encompass most pagan pantheons.

Naturalism (and atheism) cannot rule out Zeus, or Thor, without ruling out humans on the same grounds. The point being that the grounds on which naturalism (and atheism) attempt to account for humans are the same grounds upon which the pagans accounted for their gods -- "They just happened, order out of chaos!"

Of course, naturalism (and atheism) rule out humans on other grounds.
It goes without saying that (at least) one of us is misunderstanding some critical point or points, and that we each are sure that it is the other who is misunderstanding. Perhaps, in this thread, we can work through some of that.

'Crude' replied:
Well, that's where things get messy. I agree that naturalism cannot rule out those things.

Atheism though? That's where I think things get confusing. And very interesting.

I'm happy to see someone else knows the origins of the greek pantheon ("Out of chaos!") and sees the connection between it and modern naturalism.
To the best of my knowledge and understanding, of all the ancient Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cultures and civilizations which are formative to present-day Western civilization -- Akkadian-Sumerian, Babylonian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Germanic-Norse -- only the ancient Hebrews understood that the Cosmos, and all the minds therein, is an effect of the self-existent God, rather than the minds of gods and men being effects of the Cosmos, which is itself an effect of a self-existent Chaos.

The cosmologies of the ancient paganisms *start* with a chaotic material world, which "just is," and which self-organizes itself into an ordered world, into which living organisms and/or minds "arise" ... some of whom are able to affect the Cosmos/Nature in ways humans (who come later) cannot; including, generally, having formed the first humans.

These ancient cosmologies are indistinguishable in kind from the modern naturalistic-and-atheistic cosmology. The main difference -- and it is a difference of focus (and/or sequence), not of kind -- is that for the paganisms, the first sapient minds which "arose" were those of deities of one sort or another, frequently the ancestors of the then-worshipped deities; but for modern naturalism, the first sapient minds which "arose" were those of our own species, or one biologically ancestral to us; or possibly space-aliens, who may or may not have caused our species to exist.

On the other hand, the cosmology of the ancient Hebrews (and their modern spiritual and intellectual heirs), starts with an immaterial Mind, a Person, who "just is," and who creates an ordered material world, including all living things, from nothing at all material, but rather from and by his own wisdom and will. And his love.

On a side note, in his book, 'A History of the Jews,' Paul Johnson claims that the ancient Greeks (of the Hellenistic period following the dissolution of Alexander's empire) hated the Jews with a passion; and that *that* is the source of the history of the anti-Semitism in various cultures of broad Western civilization.

Johnson doesn't say anything to this effect, but from the moment I read his claim, I became convinced that the reason the Hellenistic Greeks so hated the Jews -- I mean aside from their "stubborn" refusal to suborn their traditional culture to the conquering Hellenistic culture -- has to do with pique that going back for far more than a thousand years, the ancient Hebrew ancestors of the then-present-day Jews, even when they were just no-account desert nomads, knew and understood a fundamental truth about the nature of reality, which the finest minds of proud Greek culture were only just then coming to understand. It must really have torqued the Greek intelligentsia of the Roman period that the philosophers were never were able to convince Greek culture-at-large to accept the truth that there is One, transcendent, God -- and yet Jews! managed to do so.

I replied to 'Crude:'
I've mentioned that connection many times (no reason, of course, that you'd have known that I did).

Naturalism entails atheism ... and atheism implies naturalism. I think that's the best way of putting it. We've discussed this before, and I don't know what I could say that I haven't said before, that might help you see the point. Might it help in any way if I wrote a detailed post on the matter?
That (" ... and atheism implies naturalism.") is the point of disagreement or misunderstanding between the two of us.

'Crude' replied:
I'd welcome it. But before you do, let me explain where I'm coming from.

I think "naturalist" and "materialist" have in practice ceased to mean much of anything anymore. Materialism never really recovered from quantum physics and the discarding of that old "billiard ball" idea of matter, as near as I can tell. Chomsky (for a change) is right: Now anything that's discovered or is thought up to flesh out a theory, etc, is called "physical".

Naturalism is arguably in worse shape, since naturalists aren't even bound by that already ridiculous 'materialist' label. They can be full-blown dualists. They can believe in what in any other age would have been called deities. No one bats an eye or calls these things 'supernatural', because the explosion of the word 'natural' has made it certain that 'supernatural' has lost meaning as well.

These words are used, especially in popular conversation, more as flags. A naturalist and/or a materialist is on THIS side of the God/religion debate (Which inevitably is wrapped up in specific kinds of anti-theism), a person who believes in the supernatural (Again, inevitably specific religious faiths or even political positions) is on THAT side. Etc, etc.

I suspect the number of actual atheists, as well as naturalists or materialists in the ways necessary to fit what I take to be your view of them, are less numerous than one might think. I recall when you and I have spoken on such things in the past, you've argued (and I've agreed) that atheists are almost to a man radically inconsistent. I think the key difference between us is that you take this inconsistency to show that there are real atheists, but they lack either the intelligence or fortitude to face up to what their beliefs truly mean. I take it to show that their supposed 'atheism' is in large part an act, a put-on.

Think of it this way. If a man claims he hates McDonalds, yet he eats there fairly often, his eyes light up when he gets an angus burger, etc, you may point out how irrational and inconsistent he's being, and how his hatred for McDonalds would rationally entail certain acts or forbid others. My response would be, his claims aside... maybe he doesn't really hate McDonalds.

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'Think of the Poodles!'

The real victim here are poodles everywhere.

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I have just noticed a comment by 'Crude' on Feser's blog that I wish to share with Gentle Reader:

Jime: " Atheist apologists like Hitchens possibly know that too (otherwise, they would't defend the argument of evil against theism), but they try to hide that in order to avoid the burden of proof of their own atheistic positions.

No philosopher would be taken in by that debating trick.

[The "that" which Jime is saying Hitchens probably does know is that the popularly asserted conception that "You can't prove a negative" isn't actually, in the technical sense of the word (*), true.]

Crude: I think you're giving too much credit to philosophers - plenty of them get sandbagged, let inanities pass, etc. But I agree that the argument about who has what onus is often far less about truth or reasonableness, as opposed to rhetorical maneuvering. "Debating tricks" as you say.

My own anecdotal experience is this: People who pride themselves on being skeptics typically hate, absolutely hate, being on defense. The fun of skepticism is being able to take aim at claims and see how much damage you can do - or how much damage you can appear to do. At worst, one of your attacks won't do much damage, one of your charges won't stick. But otherwise, the only thing that can happen is your target can be worse for wear.

Being on defense for a belief, though? That's a different matter entirely. Now you're the one being taken aim at. The best that can happen is you stand up to the attacks. Otherwise, the only place to go is down. Now, there's plenty of people willing to do this normally - they have a belief they wish to defend, etc. But if your primary wish isn't to defend any particular belief but just cripple ones you dislike, well.. why bother?

I'd say it's the difference between boxing and beating up someone you dislike. If all you want to is the latter, the former's something to avoid. If you just dislike someone and want to do them harm, why box if you can help it? Why let them hit back? Better to hit with no risk to yourself.
This observation seems to me especially pertinent of the persons (nearly always, or so it seems, God-haters) who engage in selective hyper-skepticism (an example of which is here).

(*) the technical sense of the word 'true' -- this is me mocking one of Hitchens' ploys (as transcribed here) in the debate the thread is about:
Hitchens: I can make a statement of objective truth easily enough, as can you. But can you make a statement of absolute truth? While we wait?
Haldane: If you say give us an example of something that might be an absolute truth -- maybe we share this but on a different foundation -- that something like, "Human life, innocent human life, is something to be respected and not violated."

Hitchens: That's a PRECEPT, not a truth.

Haldane (hesitatingly): Well I'm not sure what you're taking that difference to be...

Hitchens: Well, innocent humans die in the millions every year for no reason than they're born to a primate species on a very harsh planet. We can't say we DISLIKE that.

Haldane: That's a description of what might happen. Mine was a claim about what we ought or ought not to do. But look, I mean--

Hitchens: That is not a state--what you just said is in NO way a truth statement...NO SENSE a truth statement.
My response would have been, "There is no such thing as a 'relative truth'" -- that would have been proffered both as an example of an "absolute truth" and as a rebuttal/rebuke of Hitchens' intentional obfuscation about truth.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I hate dogs

I hate dogs (actually, it’s the owners of dogs I hate).

It’s 10:30 pm ... and some dog a good block away from me is *still* barking every few seconds. This damned animal barks so much, and so constantly, that he sounds hoarse.

Several days ago, at 2:30 AM, I’d had enough. I walked over to the house (had to track down just which one it was) … assuming the owners were asleep … to wake the owners and ask them if they knew their dog was barking. At my first pound on their door, it flew open … there they were, wide-awake, sitting in their living room. And ignoring the barking that is disturbing the peace of hundreds of people.

People should not be allowed to keep dogs chained up outside, at any rate, not in densely populated areas -- if the dog is too big to live *in* your house, then it's clearly too big for you to own it. Plus, it's cruel and heartless to the animal.

And the police! Don't get me started on those worthless fools, who do everything they can to avoid even informing the "dog lovers" that it is illegal to allow one's dog to bark at all hours.

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'Liberal' retrospectives on the passing of that ol' KKKer

"Liberal" retrospectives on the passing of that ol' KKKer, Robert Byrd ;-)

Bob Parks: Questioning Byrd's Legacy

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Monday, June 28, 2010

Point well taken

From Bob Parks: Open Thread Monday --

Even aside from the obvious racism of the time and place (and the fact that many persons in authority were involved in the KKK), this is just what one ought to expect of "the authorities." For, almost always, "the authorities" have a bureaucratic mindset ... they're not concerned with justice, which is their duty to see to, but with procedure and management, with the form rather than substance of justice and lawfulness.

"The authorities" will almost always go out of their way to make life more difficult for the victims and targets of thuggery, while ignoring (or even praising) the thugs themselves. We see this in the school yard; we see this the "criminal justice system;" we see this on the international stage.

Vox Day: Guns are an individual right

David Rittgers (on NRO): Gun Prohibition, R.I.P.

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Penn Jillette, Professional Asshat, admits ...

Penn Jillette, Professional Asshat -- and, when you get down to it, a cowardly asshat -- admits that Christians are nothing at all like he claims we are.

(h/t Kathy Shaidle)

Speaking of Kathy Shaidle, take a gander at this outrage against civil liberties. ( and this and this )

My comment is: In my opinion, should there ever be a fascist/commie coup in America (or Canada), it will be the civilian police (*), not the military, supplying the muscle.

(*) Who are, as Shaidle rightly notes, merely unionized bureaucrats with guns.

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Feel-goodism as environmentalism

I've long known about this stupidity (I've been stockpiling real lightbulbs), did you?

Of course, I might as easily have titled this "Environmentalism as feel-goodism."

July 4th update:
Deroy Murdock: Declaration of Incandescence.

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Friday, June 25, 2010

A simple Constitutional litmus test

My thesis in this post, Gentle Reader, is quite simple: any US citizen who is not a "birther" is, ipso facto, an enemy of Constitutional government and an enemy of and traitor to the Republic.

The dismissive term "birther" isn't applied merely to those who claim to know that alleged-President (*) Obama is not a natural-born US citizen, but also to those, such as myself, who point out that we do not, in fact of matter and law, know that he *is* a natural-born US citizen -- and therefore, we do not know that he meets the Constitutional requirements to occupy the presidency, and therefore, we do not know that he really is the President of the US.

Therefore, anyone -- whether "liberal" or supposedly conservative -- who will not acknowledge the simple truth that we, the citizens and electors of the US, do not know whether it is true that alleged-President Obama meets the Constitutional requirements to occupy the presidency, and thus we do not know that he *is* the President (and human nature being as it is, thse folk generally denigrate those of us who point out these plain facts) is an enemy of Constitutional government and an enemy of and traitor to the American Republic.

There can be no compromise, nor backing-down, on this issue. Anyone who will not acknowlege the simple truth that we do not know that Obama legally occupies the presidency, anyone who attempts to evade the real Constitutional question by invoking "democracy" (which the United States isn't!) or the result of the 2008 election, has chosen to be a traitor to the Constitution and thus to the United States and thus a traitor to our fathers and our children.

(*) alleged-President Obama -- I have explained elsewhere why I refer to him as such.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Steyn -- Musical Mullahs!

This post is an amusing example of Mark Steyn's wit and humor (in the face of some very un-funny trends in the world) that I wish to share with Gentle Reader; from Mark's Mailbox

Michael Young writes (see the header 'Hello, Dhimmi!'):
Mark, I’m sure you don’t read the New York Times, and thus probably missed their effusion about a revival of Nunsense and its jolly sendup of quaint Christian practices. I could not forbear to imagine the concomitant Islam-based musicals that will doubtless overtake Broadway and the West End in a similar spirit: My Fair Mullah, Clam Chador, Meet Me at the Minbar, Mahmoud, The Hijabi Game, West Side Sharia, maybe even a revival of The Desert Song.

I’m sure you could think of better ones, and have the connections to get them actually into production.
Steyn replies:
MARK SAYS: Well, first, I think you're confusing West Side Sharia with Best Eid Story. But on my European travels this month, I serenaded one audience with my instant guide to post-von Trapp Austrian demographic trends: "How Do You Solve A Problem Like Sharia?" So this subject has been on my mind. There are so many wonderful Islamic musicals to choose from. Who could forget Angela Lansbury's star turn in Jerry Herman's toe-tapping show about the Saudi justice system, Maim? Or the all-time great jihadist musical Gentlemen Prefer Bombs, with its fabulous Act Two showstopper when the entire chorus self-detonates and stops the show, at least until the dead can be removed from the orchestra pit and union-accredited subs brought in. It's one of the most memorable numbers I've seen since Mary Martin sang Cole Porter's dazzlingly rhymed honor-killing charm song, "My Head Belongs To Daddy". I certainly enjoyed the recent film version of that wonderful show about the deflowering of Aisha, Nine, and the recent revival of Show Goat, Jerome Kern's epic tale of the descent into a life of depravity of the winner of Saudi Arabia's Most Beautiful Goat competition. But, that said, my personal favorite remains Andrew Lloyd Webber's record-breaking clitoridectomy musical, Cuts.

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Always get it wholesale!

That's one smart fly

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Scalia on 'Good Intentions Are Not Good Enough'

Jennifer Ribin (Commentary Magazine): The Best Speech Those High School Grads May Ever Hear

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Help for "Undocumented Democrats"

US Dept of Labor: We Can Help ... because, after all, "Every worker in America has a right to be paid fairly whether documented or not." -- Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis

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Monday, June 21, 2010

But, it was a shakedown

In reference to this development of the BP Gulf oil spill -- Republican forced to apologize for BP apology Texas' Barton called deal with Obama a 'shakedown, isn't alone in GOP -- alleged-President Obama *did* run a shakedown of BP. Mayor Daley and Jesse Jackson would be proud of this astute student of the Chicago Way.

But, the question must be asked: Where does even a real president have the Constitutional authority to do what That Man (*) did to BP ... and does to all of us?

Were I of a mind to be in politics, I'd never be allowed to play with "the big kids," for I refuse to apologize for speaking truth. This refusal to back down when the truth one has spoken offends others (who may be more powerful) ... this refusal to lie about oneself ... seems to be a family trait -- hell! my little sisters have bigger balls that most Republican politicians display in these all-too-common run-ins with the Democrats.

Anyway, here is a column from the excellent David Warren on the matter -- Shakedown

(*) 'That Man' ... is a common way of speaking about a person one does not wish to name. I think that in the future Americans will collectively curse Obama for the injury he and his fellow leftists are intentionally inflicting upon the nation; and that we may have all sorts of names for him while only infrequently using his name.

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

What a real apology looks like

First, a comment about the real apology -- Bill Quick (Daily Pundit): Sorry isn't the hardest word
[a real] Apology

As opposed to the limp, lame non-apologies issuing from politicians and unicorn fanciers in the White House, ala “I’m sorry if anybody was offended…” here is the real thing.

Listen up, pols: This is how somebody with balls does it. All you gutless pussies out there take note, please.

And the real apology itself -- Iowahawk: Apology
UPDATE: Yesterday I posted a link here to an online petition I created. Before I set it up the petition I looked at a couple different petition sites and read their privacy policies to make sure they were kosher from a signer privacy perspective. "Petition Spot" seemed to be the only site that indicated that they did not resell email addresses, so I selected them. This morning I got a couple emails from people saying that they had "donated to the cause." Curious, I went to the petition site and discovered to my deep dismay that when you sign the petition, the site solicits a donation asking for a contribution to "help advertise the petition on Petition Spot." At least a few people dropped some PayPal coin on it, in the mistaken belief that the money was going to me. Instead it appears that this is Petition Spot's deceptive, shitty little "business model."

I have now shut down the petition and removed all links to it. I take full responsibility and am ashamed and angered that it involved well-intentioned Iowahawk readers. If I had known this beforehand I would never have posted it. I sincerely apologize to anybody who got snared in this, and I insist that if you donated to it you forward your receipt to me by email so I can personally reimburse you.

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Thursday, June 17, 2010


Well, Gentle Reader, it seems that nearly all the bloggers in the world are currently running donation drives. Not wishing to be the very last to jump on the bandwagon, does it not it behoove me to do likewise?

Yet, how is this to work? I have no PalPal account ... nor would I want one!

I suppose that my lackeys and minions who wish to remuneratively express their appreciation for all the wonderful content that they find here shall have to, somehow, discover how to snail-mail such appreciation to me.

Or, just post a thoughtful comment that engages some post or other. That works, too.

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