Category: philosophy

Drafting our legislators randomly better than current process

Worldnetdaily.com published one of my columns this weekend.  In the column, I argue that what we really need in political office are people who have no interest in political office.  Moreover, we do not need people who believe that the government is the solution to all problems, but in fact believe that government has a […]

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Cheap shot skepticism, courage and cowardly ‘free thought’

It’s easy to be a skeptic because it is much easier to not believe something as to believe it. Skepticism has no non-arbitrary stopping point. That is, full blooded skepticism will naturally morph into cynicism. There is no objective point where any kind of argument, piece of evidence, or logical deduction must coerce belief. This is a point I raise in this post. Many skeptics construe their skepticism as an act of courage, as though being willing to question everything shows a brave streak that others do not have. To a point, there is courage… and in a way, yes, there is something to that.

However, if it is brave to question everything it is braver still to believe anything. Let me illustrate.

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Recording of this Tuesday’s Debate on Faith, Evidence, Atheism, Rob Bell, and Hell

At the last ‘Knights of Contention’ discussion this last Tuesday we began by talking about faith, evidence, atheism, and Christianity, of course and ended up talking about Rob Bell and hell.  Naturally.  🙂 Here is a link for viewing that discussion.  It was about 2 1/2 hours long. There will not be a discussion the […]

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Knights of Contention Debate: Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence?

This ministry hosts a regular online round table discussing matters of substance and controversy.  Christians and NonChristians are invited but it is not necessarily an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ debate.  Past topics have included matters of controversy only amongst Christians and due to the flexibility of the discussion, topics can change on a dime. The next […]

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Story and Evidence, a Response

I think it goes to my larger point. Story moves. Yes, Story can move more than evidence. And yet even if that is the case, nowhere do I suggest that I think that is good! Indeed, this whole event illustrates just how unfortunate it can be when evidence is divorced from Story. Oh yes, there is a Story here. There is a Narrative. This Narrative is one that Myers and his many fans are drenched in, so much so none of them actually need evidence to know that me and my stories are [fill in your favorite pejoratives here]. The Narrative fills in the gap. It is the skeptical storyline: Christians, dumb. Christians, blind faith. Skeptics, geniuses. Skeptics, reason and evidence. Nothing more needs to be said because everyone is already agreed on how the story ends, anyway. The ‘evidence’ ends up being just a ‘literary’ flourish that adds little to the accepted Narrative.

This Narrative appears to be driving Dave’s response, though to his credit, he is exceptionally mild and measured compared to many of the other responses I observed.

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Knights of Contention: Challenges Apologetics Can’t Answer

Tonight, Feb 22nd, at 9:30 p.m. CST we will host our next semi-regular “Knights of Contention” online discussion using voice, video, and chat.

The topic: The 5 Challenges Apologetics Can’t Answer.

Due to the wide scope, this conversation can go anywhere. I have summarized the 5 challenges below with links to each of the 3 parts in which I have detailed them.

To learn more about the “Knights of Contention” click here.

Direct link to the discussion: http://connectpro58388802.na5.acrobat.com/knightcon/

5 Challenges, with summaries

What they all have in common: the belief, or acting as though one believes, that Christianity isn’t actually real. It’s just one’s private faith. No correspondence to reality exists, or is expected. ‘Apologetics’ can’t answer them because they have more to do with attitude or obedience than facts and evidence.

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Richard Dawkins Goes to Heaven? Short Story

“Richard Dawkins, Antony Flew, and Mother Teresa Go to Heaven…” What sounds like the beginning of a very bad joke is actually the title of a collection of three poignant short stories by author Anthony Horvath. Each story draws from what is publicly known about these three notable persons and places them in the presence of God. Antony Flew famously disputed the existence of such a being, Richard Dawkins- the only one of the three still living- infamously derides the notion, and Mother Teresa wondered at God’s absence- in these three stories they each get a chance to ask their questions and speak their minds. Read this short story, along with two others, on Kindle.

Excerpt from Richard Dawkins Goes to Heaven

“You know what sounds like ‘hell’ to me?” Richard asked the accompanying angel, a current of sarcasm carrying the question along.
“I know you’ll tell me,” the angel replied serenely.
“Heaven. Heaven sounds like hell.”

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The Courage of Their Convictions: Jared Lee Loughner, James Jay Lee and the Power of Belief

We live in a curious time. Good people who are otherwise sane entertain the notions that Lee and Loughner embraced and acted on. Over against those notions they have some memory of the bloodsport of the 20th century and are keen to avoid it a second go around. What they don’t ask is: “Maybe it isn’t just one particular application of these beliefs that ought to be discredited… maybe the beliefs themselves should be chucked?”

To illustrate.

Let us imagine that someone believed that all people with red hair should be killed because they aren’t really people. You talk to him. He’s a perfectly pleasant fellow. Very sane. “So, you aren’t going to actually kill any red haired people or advocate that others do?” you ask him. “Of course not,” he says. That’s a relief, of course. “Why believe it if you won’t carry it out?” you persist. “That would be horrible. I would feel terrible,” he says. “Hmmm,” you might say, “Perhaps the fact that you are deeply uncomfortable with wiping out those with red hair is because even though you say they aren’t people, in fact, you think they are. Why not then dispense with your belief that they aren’t really people?”

Something very much like this is at the root of much thinking among secular humanists. They don’t really believe what they’re saying. If they did, we’d all be in a lot of trouble and they’d probably go a little nuts.

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What Does Atheism Become?

About five years ago I published a collection of essays that is no longer available for purchase. The collection is titled after the essay below. It is not, as far as I know, something I’ve published elsewhere. I was thinking of it recently and decided it should be dusted off. It seems as relevant today as when I first wrote it.

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That Which Atheism Becomes

Some might say that I just like to argue. The truth is that I believe that ideas have consequences and some consequences are more severe than others. Arguing, or more precisely, debating, these ideas helps everyone on all sides of a position understand a position better. In theory, if you could of got Bin Laden to sit down to have a nice debate you could of aroused for him some of the critical consequences of his beliefs and demanded that before he acted on them he had a much firmer basis. According to many Muslims, such a basis does not exist. I will leave that issue to them to sort out. But Bin Laden does have this going for him: he takes a belief to its rational conclusion. There are many dangerous beliefs out there that people consider harmless simply because they aren’t taken to their rational conclusion.

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The Explanatory Fallacy

In the nearly 20 years or so of debating with various kinds of non-Christians, I have often encountered a way of thinking that I think is self-evidently flawed, but oddly common nonetheless. What I mean is this: as soon as you press the point, they drop the principle, recognizing it can’t be maintained as tightly as was presented. A moment later, or in another conversation, the principle is re-presented.

The principle is this: that a proposition is true if it explains something. Or, a belief is to be preferred if it explains something. Or, the better belief is the one that explains the most.

At first blush, this principle seems pretty solid. After all, don’t we give weight to an idea, hypothesis, or theory if it provides an explanation for something else? If I come across the body of a clearly murdered person and the evidence points to another person who is known to have hated the victim, wouldn’t we say, “Well, that explains that. He hated him.” ? Well, yes. It does explain it, but it still doesn’t follow that he actually murdered anyone. The time honored tradition for hanging a murder verdict on someone does include motive- but also means and opportunity. Merely having a hypothesis that ‘explains’ the facts does not prove the hypothesis. One must corroborate it. If it cannot be corroborated, it doesn’t follow it isn’t true. We just have to be careful how we weight it. We certainly would not (or ought not) sentence a man to death for it.

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Atheism and the Problem of Death

As I argued above, all the religions and most of the world’s people deal honestly and seriously with the problem of death, but I should like to point out something truly unique about Christianity: it believes that at a specific place at a particular time in our history, God himself- knowing perfectly well what an offense death was- dealt death itself a death blow. He came to earth in a real place at a real time and interacted with real people that we can know from real history and really died and really rose from the dead and really promised to share that victory with anyone who will really accept the medicine he really offers.

In my view, since death is the common denominator for all of us and the one thing that stands in our way of ultimate and meaningful happiness, it is a proper subject of intensive human scrutiny. If there were hope, real hope, that there is an ultimate answer to death, then it is worth doing everything in your power to find out, and if one finds that hope to be more than plausible, but actual, seize upon it.

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First Fruit Giving not Hand Me Down Left Overs

It all boils down to the same kind of thinking: those who labor in spiritual fields are merely charity cases who should be happy with whatever they get, even if they be scraps. Your local United Way offers you no service or benefit. That’s a charity. Your ‘spiritual worker’ is by your side through thick or thin and has taken the time to educate himself so he can be there in a meaningful way. That’s a benefit you receive, a service rendered to you. You have an obligation to render to the worker his wage.

There is much more to be said on the issue and certainly there are a lot of generous people out there. However, I wonder how the dynamic would change if many of those generous people, instead of thinking that the organization was obligated to them, because they were generous with them, understood that they were obligated to the organization. I just wonder.

The next time you hear that your church or favorite ministry needs a new printer don’t eye your old piece of crap. Go buy them a ‘first fruit’ printer. 😉 You know, one that works. And tells them that you value what they’re doing for far less than they rightly deserve.

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History of the Culture of Death

Pro-life speaker Anthony Horvath recounts the history of the ‘Culture of Death’ from Thomas Malthus to Charles Darwin to Margaret Sanger to Peter Singer, with an array of personalities in between. Horvath shows why population control proposals permeate the ‘Progressive’ movement for the last 200 years and why, and how, it must be countered today. This presentation was delivered Nov. 20th, 2010, at Concordia University in Seward Nebraska for a Nebraska Lutherans for Life organization.

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On Heroes and Dignity and Slavery

A friend of mine posted something recently that I thought really hit the nail on the head. I have pasted it below for your reading pleasure.

I would like to add my own thoughts to what she calls the “Katrina Problem.” Our reliance on ‘heroes’ also has an impact on our own perception of ourselves. There are a lot of people out there who, in the name of love, stoop low to help others. When you do this often enough in an all encompassing and pervasive way, the people cannot help themselves any longer. (You could ask: So, did you really help them?). When people can’t help themselves, they become demoralized. When you tell them over and over again that they can’t help themselves, and constantly reach in to ‘help’ them, all you’ve done is strip them of their dignity and enslaved them- to you. If we want free men and women in this country we must actually treat them as free men and women. When we help them, we must not enslave them. And, as Americans, we must ask ourselves how much of the ‘help’ we are receiving actually has the net effect of enslaving us…

Here is my friend’s post….

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I watched a special on Katrina a while ago–all this crazy behind the scenes footage of what was going on in the streets while all of that was happening. People laying and dying on curbsides. Bodies floating by. People gathered into the big arena and not given enough food or supplies. People stuck and no one helping them. I tried to imagine how it would feel. How helpless. And how confused I would be at why no one was coming to help. Where was the government or the armed services? It would have boggled my mind if I had been there.

I know that scads of people blamed President Bush’s administration for this because most people don’t realize that he kept asking the governor to let the armed services come in and she kept putting him off.

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