Monday, May 23, 2011

Is Naturalism Irrational?

In his 1993 book, Warrant and Proper Function, Dr. Alvin Plantinga argued that we as humans cannot truly possess knowledge unless our cognitive faculties function properly, but there is little reason to believe that naturalism can produce proper functioning cognitive faculties.

In the final chapter of the book, titled, "Is Naturalism Irrational?", Plantinga presents his Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (EAAN), a summary of which can be found here, where he argues that it is irrational to believe in both naturalism and evolution. This is because the probability of our cognitive faculties being reliable, given naturalism and evolution, would be fairly low since they were produced by processes which were not aimed at producing true beliefs, but at survival and propagation. This defeater for the reliability of our faculties provides a defeater for belief in naturalism itself.

At the 2010 Evangelical Philosophical Society's Apologetics Conference, Dr. Angus Menuge spoke on the subject, "Reason Cannot be Located in a Materialist World" where he gave a number of arguments against naturalism's ability to meet the requirements for reasoning to take place. Wintery Knight has an excellent post with links to Dr. Menuge's paper, a copy of his PowerPoint presentation, and a link to where an mp3 of the presentation can be purchased.

For some time now, I have been compiling a list of things which atheists must believe, can't believe, or can't account for, all of which comprise an argument that atheism is irrational. (I realize that not all atheists are naturalists, but for my current purposes, I will use the terms atheist, naturalist, and materialist interchangeably.)

The atheist must believe...

• that many things we sense to exist, such as the mind, are illusions
• that strictly natural processes, including random mutations, can account for the appearance of design in nature
• that complex specified information can arise from matter and does not require an intelligent cause
• that life can come from non-life
• that the objective moral values and duties we perceive are merely human conventions
• that there is, therefore, nothing objectively wrong with murder, rape, child molestation, genocide, racism, etc.
• that some form of determinism is true
• that something can come from absolutely nothing or that matter and energy are eternal

The atheist cannot believe in...

• free will
• the existence of any ultimate meaning or purpose to life
• the existence of objective moral values or duties
• the existence of any moral facts
• the inherent dignity or value human beings

The atheist cannot account for...

• human reasoning
• human knowledge
• universal laws of logic
• the uniformity of nature
• the fine tuning of the universe for intelligent life
• why anything at all exists rather than nothing
• the truth of anything

Note that nothing in this last section is meant to imply that atheists can't reason, use logic, or prove the truth of propositions. He simply cannot provide any grounding for these things unless he borrows tools from the theist's toolbox.

Finally, the atheist must believe in naturalism even though there are defeaters for the belief in naturalism itself.

Sunday, April 04, 2010


Mark 16:6 And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.

Image courtesy of Dan Lietha

Thursday, March 25, 2010

William Lane Craig Debates Michael Tooley on the Existence of God

William Lane Craig is considered by many to be the world's foremost Christian apologist alive today. That claim is quite understandable, once you have seen or heard him debate.

Some of my family members attended his debate last night against Michael Tooley at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte and I've gotten some good feedback so far.

For those of you interested in audio and video of Craig's debates, here is an extensive list with links to audio, video, and transcripts where available. It is grouped by topic rather than date, and I don't know if it's a comprehensive list, but there is enough here to keep anyone busy for quite a long time!

If you are interested in links to other debates and commentary, Wintery Knight has a great list here. His list includes debates between such notables as N.T. Wright and John Dominic Crossan, Michael Shermer and Jonathan Wells, Stephen Meyer and Michael Shermer, etc.

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Simple Case For Intelligent Design

Atom, commenting at William Dembski's blog uncommondescent, made the following case for Intelligent Design. I have paraphrased it slightly, but you can find the original in the comment section here.

1) It is a given that complex, integrated, functional machinery exists.

2) There are two logically possible causes for 1: A) intelligence, and B) non-intelligent forces of nature and chance.

3) Non-intelligent causes have not yet been empirically demonstrated to produce complex, integrated, functional machinery. This has only been assumed (see just-so stories).

4) Intelligent causes have been, and can be, empirically demonstrated to cause such machines. (Computers, cars, aircraft, etc.)

5) Therefore, intelligence is currently the best and only explanation for 1. Until another causal class can be empirically demonstrated as a viable cause, Intelligent Design is the default position.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Pi Day

If you have been to Google today, you know that today is Pi Day. Today is 3/14 and Pi, the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter, starts with 3.14.

Pi is a special number in that it is irrational (it cannot be written as a ratio of whole numbers) and transcendental (it cannot be expressed as the result of any finite series of mathematical equations). Pi, written π, has been calculated to over a trillion digits, but if it could be written down, it would fill the entire universe.

To see one million digits of Pi, go here.

It's interesting to search for strings of digits in this list. So far, I've found the 6-digit birthdays of most of the people in my immediate family.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

God, If You're Real...

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse. Romans 1:20

Courtesy of Dan Lietha

Monday, January 25, 2010

Who is Really Fair and Balanced?

This chart from johnny dollar's place shows the percentage of the Massachusetts Senate candidates' speeches which were aired by CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News on the night of the election.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Would You Consider Abortion in These Four Situations?

Today is the 36th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade supreme court decision legalizing abortion. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 45 million legal abortions were performed between 1973 and 2005.

Would you consider abortion in the following situations?

1. There is a preacher and wife who are very, very poor. They already have 14 kids. Now she finds out she is pregnant with her 15th. They are living in tremendous poverty. Considering their poverty and the excessive world population, would you consider recommending abortion?

2. The father is sick with sniffles, the mother has TB. They have 4 children. The first is blind, the second is dead. The third is deaf and the fourth has TB. The mother finds she is pregnant again. Given the extreme situation, would you recommend abortion?

3. A man abused a 13 year old girl and she is now pregnant. If you were her parents, would you consider recommending abortion?

4. A teenage girl is pregnant. She is not married. Her fiancee is not the father of the baby, and he is very upset. Would you recommend an abortion?

If you have answered “yes” to any of these situations...

In the first case you would have killed John Wesley, one of the great evangelists of the 18th century.

In the second case, you would have killed Beethoven.

In the third case you would have killed Ethel Waters, the great gospel singer.

In the fourth case you would have recommended the murder of Jesus Christ.


Tuesday, December 08, 2009

A question for agnostics

Coined by English biologist Thomas Huxley in 1860, the word agnostic has taken several forms over the years. Agnosticism typically addresses the knowledge of God's existence, but most agnostics don't stop there. They often take a position on the existence of objective truth as well. One agnostic will say, "I don't know, but you don't know either," or, "I don't know, and I can't know. And, neither can anyone else." Others say, "I don't know now, but maybe some day there will be more evidence and I'll know then."

So I have a question for anyone who is an agnostic. How do you know that agnosticism is correct?

If you say, "Well, I don't know," then, why are you agnostic if you have no basis for it? Or maybe you say, "In the absence of any convincing evidence, agnosticism is the best position to take." But how do you know that agnosticism is the best position to take in the absence of any convincing evidence? Where's your evidence for that?

It seems that, no matter how you slice it, agnosticism is a claim to knowledge.