Boxing Pythagoras

Philosophy from the mind of a fighter

Archive for the tag “apologetics”

Answering 36 Questions for Atheists

Every now and again, I stumble across a list of questions posed by a person on one side of an argument towards those on the other side. These questions are intended to be somewhat Socratic, leading a person towards an intended conclusion solely through his or her own answers; however, they very rarely actually have that effect.

I came upon just this sort of list from a blog called Adherent Apologetics. I’ve interacted with that blog’s author a few times before and found him very respectful and sincere; as such, I decided to take a few minutes to set my answers to his questions to page in the hope that we might begin to get a better understanding of one another.

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A review of the Dillahunty v. Jones debate, Part 2

In my first post on this debate, I focused on the issues which I had with Matt Dillahunty’s performance in this debate, particularly in the ways in which he responded to Michael Jones’ claims. Matt generally did not deal directly with Jones’ positions, but rather attempted to undermine them on foundational reasons and, unfortunately, I think he missed the mark with his responses.

In this second article on the debate, I intend to discuss the arguments which Michael Jones raises, despite the fact that he does not really get much time to discuss their nuances directly in the particular debate. His arguments are interesting and different than the usual rehashing of the Kalam or Fine-Tuning or Anselm’s Ontological arguments. That, alone, is often more than enough to grab my attention. After having been interested in apologetics for 20 years prior to being an outspoken atheist for another 10 years, it’s a rare thing, indeed, to be presented with an entirely unfamiliar argument for the existence of God.

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A review of the Dillahunty v. Jones debate, Part 1

As anyone who has read much of Boxing Pythagoras will likely already know, I am rather fond of debate. I quite enjoy listening to, reading, and watching debates between two people on a great variety of subjects– all the moreso when the subject happens to be one with which I am heartily interested. Recently, two YouTubers got together for just such a discussion. Matt Dillahunty is the president of the Atheist Community of Austin and one of the hosts of a broadcast called The Atheist Experience. Michael Jones is a Christian apologist who created a YouTube channel called “Inspiring Philosophy.” Both men are very intelligent and I have greatly enjoyed listening to both, in the past. When I heard that they were going to debate the topic, “Are there good reasons to believe in God?” I was quite excited to give it a listen.

Unfortunately, I was very let down by the debate. I spent a great deal of the two-hour long discussion cringing and yelling at my computer. While it might be easy for one of my readers to think my discomfort was caused by the Christian conversant, the truth is that it was the atheist who had me so upset. This was honestly one of the worst debate performances on the part of Matt Dillahunty which I have ever seen.

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On Causal Simultaneity

Several times over the life of this blog, I have discussed the Kalam Cosmological Argument– as well as other, similar cosmological arguments for God. They are exceedingly popular topics within theistic apologetics and are therefore levied quite often. As a reminder, the Kalam is often formulated as follows:

  1. Anything which begins to exist has a cause for its existence.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause for its existence.

The theistic apologist will usually then argue that the only possible cause for the universe’s existence must be God. Detractors and critics of these cosmological arguments, like myself, often point out that this doesn’t seem to make much sense when applied to the universe, as a whole. After all, “the universe” includes time, and if the universe began to exist, then that implies that there must have been a first moment of time. However, if there is a first moment of time, the universe exists in that moment; and since there are no moments prior to the first, there is literally no time prior to the universe’s existence during which it could have been caused.

There cannot have been anything which existed before the universe because there is literally no such thing as “before the universe.”

The prolific philosopher and theologian, Dr. William Lane Craig, addresses this issue in a manner which I find to be rather curious. Dr. Craig acknowledges that it is nonsensical to assert that there must have been something before the universe which caused the universe to exist. Instead, he invokes the notion of causal simultaneity— that is, the idea that a cause can be simultaneous with its effect. With such a notion in place, Dr. Craig argues that the implications of the Kalam are salvaged and that God must still be the cause of the universe.

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Theology and Indeterminate Infinity

Apologists often claim that actual infinites are logically impossible. One of the arguments which they utilize to support this claim deals with subtracting quantities from infinite quantities. One example of this comes from Blake Giunta’s Belief Map:

Infinity minus an infinity yields logically impossible scenarios. Notably, one can take away identical quantities from identical quantities and arrive at contradictory remainders.

On the face of it, this claim appeals to our intuitive understanding of subtraction. If I were to claim that there exists some Integer, x, such that x-4=7 and x-4=19, then we stumble upon the contradiction that 11=23. Subtracting identical quantities from identical quantities should yield identical results.

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Regarding Biblical Slavery

In general, I attempt to avoid topics of morality in my discussions of theology and religion. This is not because I think the topic is too difficult or too complex to discuss, but rather because it seems like an exercise in futility to argue about morality when the foundational metaphysical views upon which we frame morality differ so greatly. I’ve found that such discussions very frequently either end up with one person expounding on the virtues of apples while the other extols the dangers of oranges; or else they end up regressing backward until we are discussing the foundational metaphysics instead of the moral topic.

However, today, I’m going to break that trend. I was recently directed to an article written in November of 2017 entitled Nine Points about Biblical Slavery and Skeptics’ Condemnation of the Bible. The author of the article intends the piece to be a defense of the Bible against complaints regarding the manner in which its constituent documents treat the institution of slavery. The topic is an understandably sore one for a great number of people. Opponents of religion are quite often quick to point out that the Ten Commandments, a list of some of the supposed most important tenets of morality, includes things like, “Keep the Sabbath holy” and “Honor thy father and mother,” but omits something like, “Thou shalt not own another person as your property.” In fact, the Bible never offers any clear proscription against slavery, and indeed seems to sanction the practice in a number of places. Given the incredibly strong modern moral aversion to the idea of slavery, Christian apologists have attempted to take up the task of showing that these modern detractors hold deep misunderstandings of what the Bible actually says about slavery.

The reason I’m breaking my usual avoidance of topics of morality to discuss this one is that I honestly don’t care about the metaphysical foundations of our ethics, in regards to slavery. All I care about, regarding this topic, are the answers to two, simple questions.

Is it morally acceptable to own another human being as property? Does the Bible sanction the owning of another human being as property?

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Finding Jesus in your Philosophical Toast

On a blog called Theolocast, Christian apologist Todd Clay recently published an article entitled “31 Reasons to Believe in the God of the Bible.” In the article, Mr. Clay discusses a plethora of different ideas by which he claims that “the God of the Bible has made himself obvious to the world.”

Despite Todd Clay’s assertions, God’s existence is still not obvious to me. In fact, the arguments which he presents are quite bad. Indeed, it seems to me that he is claiming to have found Jesus in his philosophical toast.

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On Aquinas’ Five Ways

In his seminal work, Summa Theologica, the celebrated Christian philosopher, Thomas Aquinas, engages with the question of the existence of God. He notes that there are certainly objections to the claim that there exists such a divinity, but Aquinas believes that these objections can be overcome and that this existence can be shown to be well-founded. The eminent philosopher then lays out a list of arguments which he supposes to make this case. These arguments have come to be known as Aquinas’ Five Ways, and they have been so influential in philosophy that many theologians and apologists still cite them as if they are authoritative logical proofs, more than 700 years after the Italian priest set them to page. On the contrary, however, it seems that there are a number of issues which prevent Aquinas’ Five Ways from being quite so powerful, now, as they may have been in his own day.

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Theology and the Actually Infinite

a-mathematician-explains-infinity

One of the common claims which is utilized in arguments for the existence of God is that actual infinities cannot exist, implying that there cannot be an infinite regress of causal events in the history of the universe. If there cannot be such an infinite regress, then there must be some First Cause. Theologians then put forth other arguments attempting to show that this First Cause must be God. Blake Giunta, a Christian apologist, has constructed a very interesting and quite useful website cataloging common lines of argumentation from both sides of the debate (color coded Green for Christian arguments and Red for opposing arguments), along with citations and documentation for those claims, called BeliefMap.org. It does not take very long for a fairly cursory perusal of Belief Map to bring one to this exact claim regarding the actually infinite.

While I disagree with Mr. Giunta on many of his views, I have a great deal of respect for him and I think that his work with Belief Map is absolutely fantastic. He truly does attempt to give an irenic and charitable view to the positions of his opposition, and he does sincerely want to discuss the actual arguments being made, instead of being content to knock down Straw Men. To that end, I would like to help Mr. Giunta add to his encyclopedia of apologetics by addressing the manner in which one might answer the claims about actual infinities.

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A Variation on the Grim Reaper Paradox

In one of my earlier posts, I addressed the Grim Reaper paradox and offered my input on a possible resolution of the thought experiment’s curious implications. However, some of my readers may have been dissatisfied with my answer, thinking that it sidestepped around the issue rather than addressing the conundrum directly. A few people asked me why I thought that obscure philosophy on the nature of Time might have any relevance to the question, in the first place. To that end, I have decided to offer a bit more clarification and to attempt to illustrate why I think the Grim Reaper paradox is inherently flawed.

Consider this slightly modified version of the thought experiment…

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