Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Where is God hiding? (warning: contains sarcasm)

“Atheists often object that God should just make himself clearly obvious if he exists. So why doesn't he?”
The above is how a link on Facebook introduces an article in Premier Christianity magazine entitled “Why is God hidden?” with the strapline “Joshua Parikh tackles the tricky question of why God's existence isn't more obvious to nonbelievers.”

The article begins by exposing the author's bias from the outset, so at least we know where he's coming from:
“The so-called hiddenness of God has been an existential problem for believers and non-believers alike for thousands of years.”
“So-called hiddenness” — so you know, not really hidden.

After a brief introduction to the problem of God's “perceived” absence (so you know, not really absent), Joshua Parikh outlines three arguments:

1. The context of hiddenness

The reason why you think God's hiddenness is a problem is that you've been cherry-picking. You've only looked at places where evidence for God is absent, and ignored places where there is evidence. What is this evidence? Miracles, of course! For example, miracles related by “highly regarded” scholar Craig Keener, professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary, and an ordained minister. Not that he has any stake in this, naturally.

2. The problem on our end

Non-believers are resistant to the idea of God, so they can't see him, or his works. “...if the argument is that non-resistant non-believers exist, then this is not obvious.”

3. What God's hiddenness brings

Hiddenness is apparently a good thing, for several reasons:
  1. Hiddenness builds character.
  2. Hiddenness gives Christians opportunities to preach at non-believers.
  3. Hiddenness allows God to throw his revelations into sharp relief, which he couldn't do if he was obvious.
The author concludes this meagre bowl of unbelievably weak sauce with the following paragraph:
"For more answers, I recommend Blake Giunta’s excellent website BeliefMap.org, but I think these all point to a story by which Christianity can fully answer the difficult question of why God remains apparently hidden, however troubling it may seem."
Probably a good idea, as this article on its own is nowhere near good enough.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Belief in God is not "properly basic"

Stephen Law's undercutting defeater for “properly basic” belief in God held no sway with his debating opponent Tyler McNabb on last week's Unbelievable? radio show.

Stephen Law presented sound philosophical arguments demonstrating that Tyler McNabb's belief was not justified. But Tyler McNabb announced that he was nevertheless going to continue believing it anyway. Towards the end of the discussion host Justin Brierley suggested that perhaps the popularity of “properly basic” belief was that it allowed believers to continue believing while avoiding any requirement to present compelling evidence.

In as much as they have a choice (given the unlikelihood of doxastic voluntarism), I think believers can choose between belief on the basis of evidence, or belief on the basis of faith. One or the other, you don't need both. In my view, however, neither will give you a rational basis for belief in God.


Direct link to mp3:


Tuesday, 16 August 2016

What the hell is "Darwinian Eugenics"?

For reasons, I'm on the mailing list of Creation Ministries International. Their latest e-missive comes with this subject-line, "Darwin's death-camp doctors — and dwarfs", with the following body:

During the 1930s and 40s, the Lilliput Troupe family of singers dazzled audiences with their unique vaudeville performances. The only all-dwarf show then, their small stature earned them fame—and, ironically, ultimately saved their lives in Auschwitz.
As Yehuda Koren and Eilat Negev wrote in their recent book Giants: The Dwarfs of Auschwitz (reviewed by Jerry Bergman in the latest Journal of Creation), these entertainers who were formerly “showered with flowers and besieged for autographs, were now declared a genetic error that the state set out systematically to erase.”
After descending from the cattle train in the Auschwitz death camp, the Ovitz family—seven of whom were dwarfs—were separated from the other victims on the orders of Dr Joseph Mengele—a Nazi SS officer and physician with a Ph.D. in anthropology and an obsession with eugenics. Dr Mengele’s reason for being at Auschwitz was so he “would have continual access to an unlimited supply of human specimens” for his genetic research. His “enthusiasm, ambition, charisma and cruelty set him apart from the other death-camp doctors”, and he rose to the position of First Physician of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp.
When Mengele learned “that a large family with dwarf traits had just arrived he did not waste a moment. ‘I now have work for twenty years,’ he said joyfully.” He ordered a series of loathsome experiments on the Ovitz family. “Mengele was only one of dozens of doctors who felt no compunction about experiments conducted upon the Jews. He argued that since they were all doomed to die anyway, it would be a waste for science not to use them” for his brutal research to better understand evolution. In the end, “thousands of prisoners suffered in these experiments. Those who did not die in the name of German science often ended up gruesomely maimed.”
When the Russian army liberated Auschwitz, the entire Ovitz family was still alive, having been preserved for ongoing ‘study’. Mengele went on the run in Europe, before moving to South America in 1949. He successfully evaded capture for the rest of his life. The authors conclude that “the biggest crime in history was carried out under the direction of leading scientists and distinguished institutions” who, Jerry Bergman points out, were under the spell of Darwinian eugenics.

We know Josef Mengele did some terrible things, but implying he was inspired by Charles Darwin is disingenuous to say the least. Darwin formulated the theory of evolution by natural selection. What eugenicists advocate is artificial selection, which has been going on for centuries with selective breeding of, for example, dogs, goldfish, and pigeons. Extending selective breeding to humans may be undesirable, but it has nothing to do with Darwin.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Burnee Spring Links

Jesus and Mo

creatures avoiding planks

God's Most Famous Conversation Ever | God
Well, there you go...

Imitating a xylophone - YouTube
Some people collect stamps.

Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science to Merge with Center for Inquiry | Center for Inquiry
I'm not sure I know what to think about this....

Open Letter To Karen Armstrong on ‘The Myth of Religious Violence’ | Center for Inquiry
I don't remember this from the first time round (September 2014) but it would be a salutary read for some religious members of the Skepticule Facebook group who insist on a skewed idea of what secularism is actually about.

The rise of a new grief vampire – Respectful Insolence
For those following the latest vampire grief, here's the low-down.

» Government moves to ban organisations from exposing law-breaking schools unfairly restricting access to children and parents
Once again the Government demonstrates its commitment to seeking informed and expert opinion on a crucial issue, and ignoring it all.

Nicky Morgan is wrong to block complaints about faith schools | Voices | The Independent
This is ... vexing. It appears to demonstrate that the Government is prepared to do anything to further its own agenda, regardless of legality, fair-mindedness, common decency, and indeed common sense.

London Thinks – Why Do We Believe? - YouTube
Video of event now available.

London Thinks - Why Do We Believe? - Conway Hall | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
My pics from the London Thinks "Why Do We Believe?" event at Conway Hall on Monday 25 January 2016.

Childish frivolity, but strangely satisfying.

Fraud Psychic Gets Exposed On Camera! - YouTube
During his presentation at QEDcon in 2014, Mark Edward said "Let's take out the trash!" Some people objected to his phrasing, but it's precisely this kind of fraudulent behaviour he was referring to.

Atheist Debates - Abraham and Isaac - YouTube
Matt Dillahunty on Abraham and Isaac. Every which way you look at it, this story does not show the Abrahamic religions in good light.

What happened when my prosperity-preaching dad got a brain tumour
This is what it looks like from outside, even to people who were once inside. But for those who still remain inside, it's all part of God's Plan.

Customer Letter - Apple
Has the Crypto-war been averted, or merely postponed?

Sunday, 24 April 2016

The Artist Series: Alexey Titarenko

For my photography friends —

Ted Forbes of The Art of Photography has today released the first of his crowd-funded video documentary series on living photographers:


For a closer look at some of Alexey Titarenko's ethereal long-exposure shots, check out his book The City Is A Novel:

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Lies, bullshit, and statistics

Tim Harford in the Financial Times, with what could be the most important article of the year (and why I despair of today's media politics):

This is the real tragedy. It’s not that politicians spin things their way — of course they do. That is politics. It’s that politicians have grown so used to misusing numbers as weapons that they have forgotten that used properly, they are tools.

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