Blake's Notes

Month: March, 2014

13. The Anthropic Principle

The Teleological Argument is the argument that the universe is fine-tuned for life and therefore appears to be designed for life.  One objection to the Teleological Argument is what is known as the Anthropic Principle.  The Anthropic Principle is the idea that it should be no surprise that we find ourselves in a life-permitting universe since if the universe were life-prohibiting, we wouldn’t be here to notice.  But this principle involves a logical fallacy. Read the rest of this entry »

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12. Genetic Fallacy

A common argument against Christians is that their beliefs are the product of their culture.  If they had been born in India, it is said, they would have been Hindu rather than Christian.  While this is possible, it does nothing to assess the truth or falsity of Christianity itself.  Attacking a belief based on the origin of that belief commits what is known as the Genetic Fallacy which is when the origin of an argument is attacked rather than the argument itself.  Here is an example:

“You only believe the Sun is the center of the solar system because you were raised in a society that believes that.  Had you grown up in ancient Greece, you’d believe that the Earth was the center of the solar system.”

While it is true that I may hold my belief in a heliocentric solar system because of the society in which I was raised, it doesn’t change the fact that the Sun is, in fact, the center of the solar system. Read the rest of this entry »

11. Natural Evil

To my mind, the moral problem of evil has been solved.  The moral problem of evil is the question: if God is all-good and all-powerful, then why does evil like the Holocaust occur?  This is a question that has plagued many people throughout time.  The common answer is: “God wanted to create free creatures so that they could genuinely love him and to do this, he had to allow them free will which could be used to do evil as well.”  For many years, the idea of an all-powerful entity that “had” to allow something just didn’t make sense to me.  Then I came across this passage in C.S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain: “If you choose to say ‘God can give a creature free will and at the same time withhold free will from it’, you have not succeeded in saying anything about God: meaningless combinations of words do not suddenly acquire meaning simply because we prefix to them the two other words ‘God can’.”  God could not force the free choice to love him any more than he could create a round square.  Some things are impossible not because of any lack of power but because they are just logically incoherent combinations of words.  And so the moral problem of evil is no problem at all, when you consider the freedom we’ve been endowed with and how this freedom can be used to do evil.  What I would like to look at in this essay is the more difficult problem: the natural problem of evil.  The natural problem of evil concerns the question: if God is all-powerful and all-good, why does he allow natural disasters like tsunamis and famines that cause such horrible misery to these creatures that he created and loves? Read the rest of this entry »

10. Superstition

Many people are raised on a Christianity that involves praying to various saints, worshipping religious artifacts and asking for forgiveness from God through another person.  Questioning and doubt are discouraged.  They are taught that science is generally the enemy of religion.  Their Christian growth is stunted and they foist their own ideas of what they think God should be onto him.  Their god comes to be an idol that ceases to resemble the true God.

These Christians many times find themselves immersed in a science culture – maybe on a university campus – and they become dogmatic empiricists.  They decide that they have matured out of the superstitions of their youth and now operate their belief system based on the rigorous scientific method: “something is not true until you can prove it empirically”; “seeing is believing.”  This seems like a noble operating philosophy which is vaguely associated with things like enlightenment and reason, while religion is simultaneously associated with something like voodoo, myth and all the new age beliefs which are so easy to ridicule.  The way that science observes everything from on high and then judges objectively, appeals to you. Read the rest of this entry »

9. Miracles

The problem of miracles is the problem of the apparent contradiction between miracles and the laws of science.  How can a miracle occur if it breaks a law of science?

Following C.S. Lewis in his book, Miracles, the first question to determine is whether or not you are a naturalist.  A naturalist believes that nothing exists except this physical world.  A miracle involves some kind of interaction outside of this physical world.  Since naturalism and a belief in miracles are incompatible then if you are a naturalist, miracles are impossible and no further discussion is necessary.  But if you are not a naturalist, then the problem of miracles becomes the question: does anything outside our physical world have causal interaction with our physical world?

Science has nothing to say on this question.  Science describes what goes on in the physical world when it is not acted upon by outside influence, but it cannot say whether or not this physical world that it describes is causally closed.  Consequently, the question of whether or not the physical universe is closed is not a question that you will ever find in a science textbook.  It is not a scientific question – it is a metaphysical question.  How would science ever even begin to answer questions about things outside the physical world? Read the rest of this entry »