Blows and Blowback

Dr. Rosaria Butterfield Photo by Neil Boyd

Dr. Rosaria Butterfield
Photo by Neil Boyd

Rosaria Champagne Butterfield was a contented, tenured English professor at Syracuse University specializing in Queer Theory and Gay and Lesbian Studies when she set out to write a book on the Religious Right. Why did they hate her and her gay and lesbian community? she wanted to know. An intelligent, thirty-six year old lesbian who considered herself a fine, moral human being, she set out to refute them once and for all. It was part of her ongoing “War against Stupid.”

So she began reading the Bible and meeting with a local pastor as part of her research. The first time through the Bible, she thought it was just a bunch of hogwash. As a postmodernist, it was a given to her way of thinking that any truth claim is as valid as any other. The Bible’s moral prohibitions and unapologetic concept of totalizing truth didn’t even qualify as legitimate ideas worthy of intellectual engagement. They were completely foreign categories of thought for her.  [Read more...]

Naturalness of Theism

Brain WPI believe you have a mind of your own. I believe a bottle of water can only spinning in one direction at any give time. I believe a bottle of water cannot be full and empty at the same time. I believe that an unsupported bottle of water falls. These beliefs I hold implicitly without cognitive reflection. These beliefs spontaneously develop without special cultural indoctrination. They are maturational natural1 beliefs. Are universal religious2 ideas also maturational natural beliefs?

Preponderance of scientific evidence emerging from cognitive science of religion suggests our answer to this question is yes. Beliefs about the nature and existence of God(s), dualism, afterlife, moral realism &c., are not explicitly cultural indoctrinated ideas. They are intuitive innate implicit beliefs (Bering 2006). Jesse Bering, representing many cognitive scientists, argued that “belief is a ‘cognitive default’ and that, all else being equal, in any given cultural context religious beliefs are driven into expression by a universal, evolved, core set of psychological intuitions present in all normal human brains”(Bering 2010: 167)

Our cognitive faculties have naturally evolved to hold particular mental predispositions. We enter our first day of life with a natural implanted universal cognitive, motivation and perceptual biases. These biases predispose us to foster native instinctive and implicit beliefs of supernatural3. These biases, thus, aid us to effortlessly hold supernatural beliefs. [Read more...]

Objection(s) to the Ontological Argument

It may be strange to some that there are philosophical objections raised by Christians against arguments for belief in God. For example, St. Anselm’s “Ontological Proof” (as it would come to be called) was taken under a critical lens when Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) took consideration of the argument in his epic Summa Theologiae (ST hereafter). Over the last year or so, I have written numerous defenses of Anselm’s argument as well as criticisms so as to see if we have a legitimate and defensible argument for God’s existence.

Gaunilo and Kant’s criticism aside, there are several other considerable objections to the argument that I think are serious enough to address. Two in particular come to mind. Mortimer J. Adler (1980) makes the point in his book How to Think About God that existential propositions do not entail logical necessity. As he writes at length:

No existential proposition can be self-evidently true or necessarily true. When we have direct perceptual acquaintance with a particular individual, the existence of that individual is evident to us, but the proposition which asserts that the individual exists is not self-evident, nor is its truth necessary. Self-evident propositions are propositions which we know to be true directly from our understanding of their component terms, not by process of reasoning or inference. (Adler 1980: 104)

[Read more...]

Is the Ontological Argument Valid? – Part 2

(I continue from Part 1 last month into Aquinas’ response to the argument.)

Almost two hundred years later, St. Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274) rejected the ontological argument; he believed that God’s existence was self-evident in itself, but not to us. Aquinas asserted that we cannot know God’s essence directly, but only through his effects, thus all valid arguments for his existence will be a posteriori, not a priori. This critique centered upon Aquinas’ charge that not everyone shared the same concept of God and consequently the argument will only convince those with a similar notion. He further claimed that even if one could share the same concept of God, one would have no idea what this sequence of words really means.[i] However, the success of the ontological argument does not depend on fully understanding the concept of a “being than which none greater can be conceived.” One does not need to possess a complete understanding of a “natural number than which none larger can be imagined” to understand that there does not exist such a number. Providing the concept is coherent, even a minimal understanding is sufficient for Anselm’s argument to stand.[ii] [Read more...]

Quality of Life in the Multiverse

Flickr (credit: Idiolector)

Flickr (credit: Idiolector)

The universe appears to be fine-tuned for life.  For example, seemingly infinitesimal adjustments to the dark-energy density or gravitational constant would render most conceivable forms of life impossible.  Adjusting the dark energy, for example, would result in either no planets or a collapsed universe.[1]  Clearly, cosmic fine-tuning is necessary (although not sufficient) for evolution to occur. [Read more...]