bookmark_borderBoudry’s Hoax on “Sophisticated Theologians”

Dr. Maarten Boudry performs a ‘Sokal-style hoax‘ on two theology conferences. Here is the abstract:

The Paradoxes of Darwinian Disorder. Towards an Ontological Reaffirmation of Order and Transcendence.
Robert A. Maundy,  College of the Holy Cross, Reno, Nevada
In the Darwinian perspective, order is not immanent in reality, but it is a self-affirming aspect of reality in so far as it is experienced by situated subjects. However, it is not so much reality that is self-affirming, but the creative order structuring reality which manifests itself to us. Being-whole, as opposed to being-one, underwrites our fundamental sense of locatedness and particularity in the universe. The valuation of order qua meaningful order, rather than order-in-itself, has been thoroughly objectified in the Darwinian worldview. This process of de-contextualization and reification of meaning has ultimately led to the establishment of ‘dis-order’ rather than ‘this-order’. As a result, Darwinian materialism confronts us with an eradication of meaning from the phenomenological experience of reality. Negative theology however suggests a revaluation of disorder as a necessary precondition of order, as that without which order could not be thought of in an orderly fashion. In that sense, dis-order dissolves into the manifestations of order transcending the materialist realm. Indeed, order becomes only transparent qua order in so far as it is situated against a background of chaos and meaninglessness. This binary opposition between order and dis-order, or between order and that which disrupts order, embodies a central paradox of Darwinian thinking. As Whitehead suggests, reality is not composed of disordered material substances, but as serially-ordered events that are experienced in a subjectively meaningful way. The question is not what structures order, but what structure is imposed on our transcendent conception of order. By narrowly focusing on the disorderly state of present-being, or the “incoherence of a primordial multiplicity”, as John Haught put it, Darwinian materialists lose sense of the ultimate order unfolding in the not-yet-being. Contrary to what Dawkins asserts, if we reframe our sense of locatedness of existence within a the space of radical contingency of spiritual destiny, then absolute order reemerges as an ontological possibility. The discourse of dis-order always already incorporates a creative moment that allows the self to transcend the context in which it finds itself, but also to find solace and responsiveness in an absolute Order which both engenders and withholds meaning. Creation is the condition of possibility of discourse which, in turn, evokes itself as presenting creation itself. Darwinian discourse is therefore just an emanation of the absolute discourse of dis-order, and not the other way around, as crude materialists such as Dawkins suggest.

(h/t Jerry Coyne, Why Evolution is True)

bookmark_borderDebunking the Myth of Persecution

I have a cartoon on my office door showing a pie chart representing religious affiliation in the U.S. Of course, by far the largest section of the pie is labelled “Christian.” All others are represented by small slivers. A speech balloon from the Christian part says “Help! We are being oppressed!” The rhetoric of oppression is still absurdly used by Christian polemicists. Every holiday season we hear about the “war on Christmas.” The removal of “Roy’s Rock,”–a two-and-a-half ton granite monument with the Ten Commandments inscribed placed in a Montgomery, Alabama courthouse by a fundamentalist judge–elicited hysterical shrieks of martyrdom from the religious right. Lately, proposed requirements that religious institutions pay for their employee’s contraceptives as a standard part of healthcare coverage has elicited cries of outrage and charges that freedom of religion is being infringed.
Such rhetoric has a history, of course, dating right back to the earliest days of Christianity. One of the most powerful images of early Christianity is the depiction of huddled Christians praying in the arena as ravenous lions are set upon them. The rhetoric of victimhood is very effective and is used by propagandists whenever possible. The story of Christian persecution is one of the most successful pieces of propaganda ever. Art and literature have reproduced these tales and depictions many times. Even Hollywood movies like Quo Vadis have chillingly portrayed the mass martyrdoms. Everybody knows that innocent Christians were systematically and savagely persecuted by the wicked pagan Roman Empire.
Turns out, though, that, once again, what everybody “knows” is wrong. The Myth of Persecution, a new book by historian Candida Moss, professor of New Testament at Notre Dame University, pours cold water over the whole mythos of martyrdom. (Check the review by Laura Miller at Salon.com) In fact, the Roman Empire displayed a remarkable degree of religious tolerance, certainly far more than was shown by later Christian societies. Moss notes that in the 300-odd years between the founding of Christianity and Constantine’s official declaration of tolerance, there were only ten or twelve years scattered through that period in which Christians were the objects of particular persecution. Even then, enforcement was stringent in some areas and lax in others. The idea of widespread, chronic, systematic persecution of Christianity is just false, Moss argues, an invention of the Church for propagandistic purposes.
Of course, Christians, like any other citizens, did sometimes wind up in the courts on various charges. When they did, Moss notes that they were prone to making defiant pronouncements, denying the authority of the emperor and the courts. Indeed, many Christians actively sought martyrdom. Often the authorities refused to oblige them.
The upshot is that then as now the rhetoric of persecution served to perpetuate a myth of Christian victimization at the hands of a secular culture. The truth, of course, is that Torquemada could have taught Diocletian a thing or two about real religious persecution.

bookmark_borderAlex Rosenberg’s 2012 Argument for Nihilism

 

In his 2012 book, The Atheist’s Guide to Reality, Alex Rosenberg defends an argument for nihilism.[1] In this article I want to evaluate his argument.

Definitions

Before we turn to his argument, we first need to understand how Rosenberg defines his terms. Let us begin with the word “scientism.” In his own words, Rosenberg defines “scientism” as follows.

But we’ll call the worldview that all us atheists (and even some agnostics) share “scientism.” This is the conviction that [1] the methods of science are the only reliable ways to secure knowledge of anything; [2] that science’s description of the world is correct in its fundamentals; and [3] that when “complete,” what science tells us will not be surprisingly different from what it tells us today. We’ll often use the adjective “scientistic” in referring to the approaches, theories, methods, and descriptions of the nature of reality that all the sciences share. Science provides all the significant truths about reality, and knowing such truths is what real understanding is all about. (brackets are mine) (6)

As an aside, I don’t think Rosenberg anywhere shows that all atheists share the view he calls scientism; in fact, I think that’s plainly false. Suppose we adopt a so-called ‘strong’ definition of “atheism”: atheism is the belief that there is no God. How, precisely, are any of the three core beliefs of scientism supposed to follow from atheism? They don’t. A person can consistently believe both that atheism is true and that any (or all) of scientism’s three beliefs are false. For example, given the relative immaturity of the science of cosmology (compared to older disciplines such as chemistry), an atheist may justifiably doubt the claim that, when “complete,” what cosmology “tells us will not be surprisingly different from what it tells us today.” Furthermore, philosopher Thomas Nagel seems to be a prime example of an atheist who rejects scientism, as evidenced by his latest book, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False.[2] Whatever one thinks about Nagel’s book, the fact remains that not all atheists share a belief in scientism.

Next, let’s turn to “nihilism.”

Nihilism tells us … [that] moral judgments are … all wrong. More exactly, it claims, they are all based on false, groundless presuppositions. Nihilism says that the whole idea of “morally permissible” is untenable nonsense. As such, it can hardly be accused of holding that “everything is morally permissible.” That, too, is untenable nonsense.

Moreover, nihilism denies that there is really any such thing as intrinsic moral value. … Nihilism denies that there is anything at all that is good in itself or, for that matter, bad in itself. (pp. 95-97)

With definitions out of the way, let us now turn to Rosenberg’s argument.

Rosenberg’s Argument

According to Rosenberg, nihilism is “scientifically and scientistically unavoidable” (101). He claims that, “by substantiating a couple of premises, we can establish the truth of nihilism.”

* First premise: All cultures, and almost everyone in them, endorse most of the same core moral principles as binding on everyone.

* Second premise: The core moral principles have significant consequences for humans’ biological fitness—for our survival and reproduction. (101)

But how shall we evaluate Rosenberg’s claim? It isn’t clear or obvious or self-evident that those premises “establish” the truth of nihilism. So, even granting the truth of both premises, why should we think that nihilism is true? By themselves, the two premises combined do not yield a valid argument for nihilism:

(1) All cultures, and almost everyone in them, endorse most of the same core moral principles as binding on everyone.

(2) The core moral principles have significant consequences for humans’ biological fitness—for our survival and reproduction.

(N) Therefore, nihilism is true.

Notice, however, that (N) does not follow from (1): it’s logically possible that human beings have evolved a set of “core moral principles” which have significant consequences for humans’ biological fitness and which are correct. What to do?

Let’s go back to Rosenberg’s earlier claim that nihilism is “scientifically and scientistically unavoidable.” This suggests two variants of Rosenberg’s argument: a scientific and a scientistic argument for nihilism.

A Scientistic Argument for Nihilism

Here is a scientistic argument for nihilism.

(1) All cultures, and almost everyone in them, endorse most of the same core moral principles as binding on everyone.

(2) The core moral principles have significant consequences for humans’ biological fitness—for our survival and reproduction.

(3) Scientism is true.

(N) Therefore, nihilism is true.

Like the previous argument, this one is invalid. Even when we add the assumption that scientism is true, other options besides nihilism remain. Both ethical naturalism and moral skepticism are compatible with scientism.

Perhaps, however, a more charitable interpretation is to read Rosenberg as presenting an explanatory argument (really, a fragment of an inductive argument) for nihilism. We can complete the argument as follows.

Let us divide the evidence (allegedly) relevant to nihilism into background evidence and the evidence to be explained.

B: Background Evidence

1. The methods of science are the only reliable ways to secure knowledge of anything.

2. Science’s description of the world is correct in its fundamentals.

3. When “complete,” what science tells us will not be surprisingly different from what it tells us today.

E: The Evidence to be Explained

1. All cultures, and almost everyone in them, endorse most of the same core moral principles as binding on everyone.

2. The core moral principles have significant consequences for humans’ biological fitness—for our survival and reproduction.

Finally, let us define the competing explanations.

H: The Rival Explanatory Hypotheses

nihilism (N): the theory that all moral judgments are wrong and that there is no intrinsic moral value.

skepticism (S): the theory that there are true moral judgments but we cannot know which ones are true. (Note: skepticism is ontologically neutral between ethical naturalism and non-naturalism.)

relativism (R): the theory that the truth of moral judgments is relative to culture or time period.

ethical naturalism (EN): the view that moral facts and properties are nothing but natural facts and properties.[3]

ethical non-naturalism (ENN): the view that moral facts and properties are irreducible, sui generis facts and properties that cannot be further analyzed or explained.

Criteria of Adequacy

  • Simplicity: the number of assumptions made
  • Conservatism: how well a theory fits with existing knowledge
  • Testability: whether there is some way to determine if a theory is true
  • Fruitfulness: the number of novel predictions made
  • Explanatory Scope: the amount of diverse phenomena explained
  • Assessment

    Then we can evaluate these hypotheses according to the criteria of adequacy. Although I lack the space to defend it here, the following table summarizes my assessment of the rival explanations according to the
    criteria of adequacy.

      N S R EN ENN
    Simplicity Smile Smile Smile Smile Sad smile
    Conservativism Smile Smile Smile Smile Sad smile
    Testability Smile Smile Smile Smile Sad smile
    Fruitfulness Smile Smile Smile Smile Sad smile
    Explanatory Scope Sad smile ? Sad smile Smile Smile

     

    But then it becomes far from obvious that nihilism is the best explanation. On my analysis, nihilism is no better than relativism. More important, nihilism is a worse explanation than ethical naturalism!

    A Scientific Argument for Nihili
    sm

    In his book, Rosenberg doesn’t explain how nihilism is scientifically “unavoidable” from his two premises. In a 2003 article, however, he (and Tamler Sommers) do offer such an explanation.[4]

    Darwinian nihilism departs from [ethical] naturalism only in declining to endorse our
    morality or any other as true or correct. It must decline to do so because it holds that
    the explanation of how our moral beliefs arose also explains away as mistaken the
    widespread belief that moral claims are true. The Darwinian explanation becomes
    the Darwinian nihilist’s "explaining away" when it becomes apparent that the best
    explanation-blind variation and natural selection- for the emergence of our ethical
    belief does not require that these beliefs have truth-makers. To tum the Darwinian
    explanation into an "explaining away" the nihilist need only add the uncontroversial
    scientific principle that if our best theory of why people believe P does not require
    that P is true, then there are no grounds to believe P is true.[5]

    This suggests the following argument for nihilism.

    (1) All cultures, and almost everyone in them, endorse most of the same core moral principles as binding on everyone.

    (2) Our best theory of why people believe the same core moral principles is that such principles have significant consequences for humans’ biological fitness—for our survival and reproduction.

    (3) Our best theory of why people believe the same core moral principles are binding on everyone does not require that P is true. [from (2)]

    (4) If our best theory of why people believe P does not require that P is true, then there are no grounds to believe P is true.

    (5) Therefore, there are no grounds to believe that core moral principles are binding on everyone. [from (1), (3), and (4)]

    (N) Therefore, nihilism is true.

    Although Sommers and Rosenberg describe the scientific principle in (4) as “uncontroversial,” it seems to me that the principle is false. I take “why people believe P” to mean to what we might call “extra-rational” factors such as subjective experiences, psychology, or evolutionary history. While extra-rational factors may cause a person to correctly believe P (albeit on non-rational or even irrational grounds), such a coincidence is hardly guaranteed.

    In contrast, the statement, “there are no grounds to believe P is true,” implies that there are literally no grounds whatsoever to believe P is true. This belies the fatal flaw in (4): “there are no grounds to believe P is true” does not follow from the fact that “our best theory of why people believe P does not require that P is true.”

    I conclude, therefore, that premise (4) is false. Accordingly, even if we grant the truth of Rosenberg’s two main premises (and, indeed, even if we assume that scientism is true), Rosenberg’s argument for nihilism, as it stands, is not successful.

    Notes

    [1] Alex Rosenberg, The Atheist’s Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life without Illusions (New York: W.W. Norton, 2012).

    [2] Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012).

    [3] I take it that, contrary to Brink’s semantics, but in line with Quentin Smith’s analysis of compositional vs. identity forms of ethical naturalism, identity naturalism is the superior interpretation of ethical naturalism. See Quentin Smith, Ethical and Religious Thought in Analytic Philosophy of Language (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997), 167-168. Cf. David O. Brink, Moral Realism and the Foundations of Ethics (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989).

    [4] Tamler Sommers and Alex Rosenberg, “Darwin’s Nihilistic Idea: Evolution and the Meaninglessness of Life,” Biology and Philosophy 18 (2003): 653-68.

    [5] Sommers and Rosenberg 2003, 667.

    bookmark_borderImplication vs. Entailment

    In my recent post “The Perfect Goodness of God – Again” I used conditional derivation to prove a conditional statement, and took that to be sufficient to prove that the antecedent of the conditional statement entailed the consequent. Then I had second thoughts about that approach to proving an entailment.
    Penance for my possible sin against logic is to look up the terms ‘implication’ and ‘entailment’ (as well as other related terms: ‘deduction’ and ‘validity’) in various dictionaries of philosophy and philosophy handbooks, and to think about the definitions and make comments on these terms.
    I felt a little less stupid upon reading the following caution in The Philosopher’s Toolkit (hereafter TPT), authored by our own Julian Baggini, along with Peter Fosl:
    The problem with the distinction as set out [above in the entry on Implication] is that it is all much, much messier than this. So much messier, in fact, that any attempt to tidy it up in a text such as this is bound to result in either an incongruously bloated entry or utter confusion. (TPT, p.148)
    One of the most helpful comments on this topic, as well as one of the most wrong-headed comments, came from TPT. Baggini and Fosl give this very useful bit of advice:
    The second lesson is that the simplistic distinction set out [here in this entry on Implication] is a decent rule of thumb. If you restrict your use of ‘entailment’ to valid deductions and your use of ‘implication’ to true conditionals, you won’t go far wrong. (TPT, p.149)
    Another way to put this point is to say that valid deductions are paradigm cases of ‘entailment’ and ground the meaning of that term, while true conditional statements are paradigm cases of ‘implication’ and ground the meaning of that term. A conditional statement has the form ‘IF P, THEN Q’ where P and Q are themselves statements or propositions.
    What struck me as a wrong-headed comment suggests that we avoid use of these terms:
    The first [lesson to draw from this entry on Implication] is to avoid using the terms ‘implication’ and ‘entailment’ if an alternative, clearer way of expressing what you want to say is available. Talk about a ‘valid deduction’ or a ‘true conditional’, not about entailment and implication. (TPT, p.149)
    In general, I have an immediate negative reaction whenever someone recommends abandoning the use of a word because of alleged vagueness or ambiguity or un-clarity of that word, especially if the word has often been used in discussions of important issues. Some people, for example, want us all to discard the words ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ because of alleged unclarity in these words.
    Words should not be abandoned quickly and easily. We are married to our words and should not seek a divorce as soon as we experience a first quarrel or even a third or fourth quarrel. When a word has a history of use and the appearance of having contributed to important debates and discussions, then we ought to be very reluctant to throw in the towel on such a word. Often times the problem is that lots of stupid or ignorant people misuse a word (such as Rush Limbaugh misusing and abusing the word ‘liberal’). A word like ‘liberal’ should not be abandoned just because there is a crowd of ignorant yahoos who aren’t able to use the word correctly or intelligently.
    Anyway, ‘implication’ and ‘entailment’ are used frequently in philosophical arguments and discussions, and it seems to me, are among the most important terms for use in philosophical arguments and discussions. The last thing we should do is abandon use of these words. There might well be issues of ambiguity or unclarity here. I’m not saying that the meaning of these words is clear and obvious. But if there are problems of unclarity with these words, then those of us who have an interest in philosophical issues ought to learn about these problems and make a sincere effort to disambiguate the ambiguities and sharpen up the vagueness, or at least be cautious and try to be aware of the potential for confusion and unclarity that is associated with these words.
    The Oxford Guide to Philosophy (hereafter: OGP) presents the word ‘implication’ as being ambiguous between two main “uses for logic”:
    1. Implication understood as a relation between a set of premises and a conclusion deducible from or a logical consequence of those premisses.
    2. Implication understood as the relation between antecedent and consequent of a true conditional proposition.
    (OGP, p.423)
    We see here, as in TPT, the two primary phenomena to which the terms ‘implication’ and ‘entailment’ are related: deductive arguments and conditional statements. But here in the OGP, the term ‘implication’ covers both phenomena. So, we can see how this might be a bit confusing. Sometimes ‘implication’ is used to refer to the relation between antecedent and consequent in a true conditional statement, and other times it is used to refer to the relationship between the premises of a valid deductive argument and the conclusion of that argument.
    To avoid confusion, it might be best to try to limit the use of ‘implication’ (at least in philosophical discussions) to the relation between antecedent and consequent in a true conditional statement, since the term ‘entailment’ can be used to cover the relationship between the premises of a valid deductive argument and the conclusion.
    The meaning and logic of conditional statements is a matter of controversy in modern philosophy, so the meaning of the word ‘implication’ is ambiguous and problematic. On the other hand, deductive arguments and the methods for determining the validity of deductive arguments are less controversial, and, I believe, more intuitive, so the word ‘entailment’ appears to be less problematic than ‘implication’.
    One question, that I have recently stumbled upon, is about how ‘implication’ relates to ‘entailment’. One thing that implication and entailment have in common is the characteristic of transitivity:
    1. A implies B.
    2. B implies C.
    Therefore
    3. A implies C.
    4. IF A, THEN B.
    5. IF B, THEN C.
    Therefore
    6. IF A, THEN C.
    7. A entails B.
    8. B entails C.
    Therefore
    9. A entails C.
    Both entailments and implications can “transfer” through a sequence or chain.
    The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy (2nd edition, hereafter: CDP) also indicates that ‘implication’ can be used to refer to valid deductive inference:
    A number of statements together imply Q if their joint truth ensures the truth of Q. An argument is deductively valid when its premises imply its conclusion. Expressions of the following forms are often interchanged one for the other: ‘P implies Q’, ‘Q follows from P’, and ‘P entails Q’… (CDP, p.419)
    Later in the same entry (on Implication), it is pointed out that ‘implication’ is also used of conditional statements.
    In Talking Philosophy: A Wordbook (hereafter: TPW), A.W. Sparkes defines ‘implication’ in the way that makes it equivalent to entailment or valid deductive inference:
    In the technical vocabulary of philosophy, implication is a relation between propositions. A proposition p implies q IFF it would be self-contradictory…to assert p and deny q. (TPW, p.76)
    A couple of pages later, we read the entry on ‘entailment’:
    Roughly speaking, ‘entail’ is synonymous with ‘imply’. (TPW, p.78)
    One of the most interesting discussions can be found in Antony Flew’s A Dictionary of Philosophy (revised 2nd edition, hereafter: FDP). First Flew notes the problematic nature of the terms ‘implication’ and ‘entailment’:
    A family of closely related notions, attempts to provide an adequate account of which have occupied many volumes. Problems arise when one seeks to determine relationships within the family, and, as a result, clear and agreed definitions are not available. (FDP, p.164)
    Next, Flew lays out the sort of reasoning about these terms that I had been tempted to follow:
    To assert the conditional statement ‘If A, then B’ is thought to be equivalent to saying that A implies B, and this in turn is often taken to mean that B is deducible from A. But if B is deducible from A, then to reason A, therefore B is to argue validly, which means that B follows from A or that A entails B. This train of connections might lead one to suppose that all these claims about the relation between A and B are just different ways of saying the same thing. (FDP, p. 164-165)
    Flew cautions, however, that “there are other considerations that show that this certainly cannot be said without qualification.” (FDP, p.165)
    Since it appears that ‘entailment’ is the clearer of the two terms, we should try to nail down the meaning of that half of the pair of terms first.
    Flew distinguishes specifically between a material conditional and entailment:
    The material conditional ‘A -> B ’  is true if as a matter of fact it is not the case that A is true and B is false, whereas for ‘A, therefore B’ to be a valid inference it must be impossible for B to be false when A is true…. Since it is generally accepted that ‘A’ entails ‘B’ iff ‘A, therefore B’ is a valid inference, this means that to say that ‘A’ entails ‘B’ is to say that ‘A -> B ’ is not merely true, but is necessarily true. (FDP, p. 165)
    So, one could define ‘entailment’ in relation to the sort of implication involved in a material conditional statement.  [Note: Flew uses the horseshoe symbol here, but I don’t know how to get that symbol to show up on a Patheos blog post.]
    Since the term ‘entailment’ is tied to the notion of a valid deductive argument, and since ‘entailment’ seems to be the clearest term of the pair of related terms ‘entailment’ and ‘implication’, it makes sense to begin by defining or clarifying the concept of a ‘valid deductive argument’. There are a few different ways to do this:
    deduction. A valid argument in which it is impossible to assert the premises and to deny the conclusion without thereby contradicting oneself. (FDP, p.85)
    Deduction. An argument is deductive if it draws a conclusion from certain premises on the grounds that to deny the conclusion would be to contradict the premises. (A Dictionary of Philosophy, 2nd edition, by A.R. Lacey, p.52-53)
    1.2 Deduction … It is the most rigorous form of argumentation there is, since in deduction, the move from premises to conclusions is such that if the premises are true, then the conclusion must also be true. (TPT, p.6)
    deduction. A species of argument or inference where from a given set of premisses the conclusion must follow. For example, from the premisses P1, P2 the conclusion P1 and P2 is deducible. The set consisting of the premises and the negation of the conclusion is inconsistent. (OGP, p.194)
    validity and truth. … If the argument ‘P1… Pn, therefore C’ is valid, it must be impossible for C to be false when P1… Pn are all true. (FDP, p. 364)
    Valid. An inference of an argument is valid if its conclusion follows deductively from its premises. The premises may be false, but if they are true, the conclusions must be true. (A Dictionary of Philosophy, 2nd edition, by A.R. Lacey, p.260)
    1.4 Validity and soundness…Validity is a property of well-formed deductive arguments, which, to recap, are defined as arguments where the conclusion is in some sense (actually, hypothetically, etc.) presented as following from the premises necessarily (see 1.2). A valid deductive argument is one for which the conclusion follows from the premises in that way. (TPT, p.12) …If there is any conceivable way possible for the premises of an argument to be true but its conclusion simultaneously to be false, then it is an invalid argument. (TPT, p.13)
    valid, …An argument is valid if it is impossible for the premises all to be true and, at the same time, the conclusion false. (CDP, p.948)
    validity.  In logic, validity is most commonly attributed to either:
    1. Deductive arguments, which are such that if the premises are true the conclusion must be true. … Any argument is valid if and only if the set consisting of its premises and the negation of its conclusion is inconsistent.
    2. Propositions which are semantically valid, i.e. are true under any alternative interpretation of the non-logical words. (OGP, p.940)
    We see that deductive validity, and thus entailment, is defined in relation to the following concepts: impossibility, contradiction, necessarily, inconsistent, ‘must be true’, ‘must follow’, ‘no conceivable way possible’. The concepts of impossibility and necessarily are ambiguous between logical impossibility and necessity and causal or empirical impossibility and necessity. The expressions ‘must be true’ and ‘must follow’ have a similar ambiguity. The concepts of contradiction and inconsistency, however, are more clearly and directly related to logic. So, my initial preference is to define ‘deductively valid argument’ and ‘entailment’ in terms of contradiction.

    bookmark_borderCraig’s Argument from Intentionality

    Here is my summary of Craig’s “argument from intentionality” in his recent debate with Alex Rosenberg.

    5. God is the best explanation for the intentional states of consciousness in the world.
    Philosophers are puzzled by states of intentionality, the state of being about something or being of something. It signifies the object-directendess of our thoughts, such as thinking about my summer vacation or about my wife. But no physical object has this capability. A chair, a stone, or a glob of tissue like the brain is not about or of something else. Only mental states or states of consciousness are about other things.

    As a materialist, Rosenberg recognizes this fact and so concludes that, on atheism, there really are no intentional states. Dr. Rosenberg boldly claims we never really think about anything. But this seems incredible. Obviously, I am thinking about Dr. Rosenberg’s argument! This is a reductio ad absurdum argument against atheism. But on theism, it is not surprising that there should be finite minds. Thus, intentional states fit comfortably into a theistic worldview.

    (1) If God did not exist, intentional states of consciousness would not exist.
    (2) Intentional states of consciousness exist.
    (3) Therefore, God exists.

    Maybe I am being dense, but what would be wrong with the following response?

    Regarding Dr. Craig’s argument from intentionality, he says, "But no physical object has the capability of intentionality." But that statement simply begs the question against materialism. The statement, "No physical object has the capability of intentionality," is true if and only if reductive materialism is false. If reductive materialism is true, then the mind just is the brain and the intentional states of consciousness just are brain states. So the proposition that "No physical object has the capability of intentionality" is both a premise and a conclusion in his argument, and thus his argument is massively question-begging. Indeed, a materialist would be no more guilty of begging the question if he were to declare, "But there is no such thing as a mental substance apart from a physical substance," and then argue from that to the falsity of theism. So I don’t think Dr. Craig has shown that God is the best explanation of the intentional states of consciousness.

    bookmark_borderThoughts on the “Logical vs. Evidential” Distinction

    Chris Hallquist recently questioned the significance of the distinction between logical arguments from evil and evidential arguments from evil. He writes:

    In general, the insistence of people who follow these issues on classifying versions of the problem of evil as either “logical” or “evidential” is weird. It isn’t something you see with any other kind of argument in philosophy. What we care about with deductive arguments is first whether they are valid, and second whether the premises are true, whether people can agree that they’re true, whether people should agree that they’re true, etc.

    If there’s agreement that an argument is deductively valid and the premises are true, it doesn’t matter if the premises are logical truths, if they’re necessary or contingent, or if they’re a priori or a posteriori. It matters somewhat whether we’re certain the premises are true, or whether we just think they’re just probably true, but thinking an argument’s premises are only probably true doesn’t turn the argument into an “evidential” or “probabilistic” argument.

    I think Hallquist is right. In fact, even within the philosophy of religion we don’t find, say, theistic arguments classified as “logical” or “evidential.” (For example, have you ever seen someone refer to the ‘logical’ version of the kalam cosmological argument, as opposed to its ‘evidential’ version?)

    Furthermore, Hallquist is not the first person to question the significance of the distinction. Daniel Howard-Snyder, in his introduction to his anthology, The Evidential Argument from Evil, wrote this.

    While we may easily draw this distinction [between logical and evidential arguments from evil], we are hard pressed to defend its significance. I’m afraid I don’t have much to say about the matter, except for the obvious. I mean, whenever one meets what its author purports to be an argument from evil (in contrast with, say, the sort of response to horrendous evil that you might find in Albert Camus’s The Plague or Eli Wiesel’s Night), one ought to consider whether the author intends to assert that facts about evil known with certainty are incompatible with theism. If she does, then one should query why the argument is not dubious for the same reason that Mackie’s argument from evil is dubious. If she does not–that is, if she intends to say that facts about evil which are known with certainty make theism significantly unlikely, or that theism is incompatible with certain facts about evil that are themselves quite likely–then one needs to think hard about the sorts of issues this book is about. (p. xvi)

    Independent of whether the logical vs. evidential distinction is significant, I have a problem with it from a ‘naming convention’ perspective. Logic is commonly divided into two branches: inductive and deductive. Based on that, what is a student supposed to think when an author refers to a “logical” argument from evil? Are they supposed to  say, “Oh, so your argument is, like, really logical?” And if “logical arguments from evil” are, well, logical, then does that mean that “evidential arguments from evil” are illogical?!?

    I think a less confusing set of labels are “logical incompatibility arguments” and “comparative improbability” arguments. According to arguments of the first type, some fact about evil is–you guessed it–logically incompatible with theism. Arguments of the second type claim that some fact about evil, while logically compatible with theism, is less probable on theism than it is on naturalism. These proposed alternative labels are not as concise as the “standard” terminology, but at least it’s clear what they mean!

    I personally find the distinction marginally useful insofar as categorizing arguments for or against God’s existence this way makes it very convenient to identify what type of defeater is required to refute such arguments.

    bookmark_borderMark Douglas Seward: Fine-tuning as Evidence for a Multiverse: Why White is Wrong

    Abstract

    Roger White (God and design, Routledge, London, 2003) claims that while the fine-tuning of our universe, α , may count as evidence for a designer, it cannot count as evidence for a multiverse. First, I will argue that his considerations are only correct, if at all, for a limited set of multiverses that have particular features. As a result, I will argue that his claim cannot be generalised as a statement about all multiverses. This failure to generalise, I will argue, is also a feature of design hypotheses. That is, design hypotheses can likewise be made insensitive or sensitive to the evidence of fine-tuning as we please. Second, I will argue that White is mistaken about the role that this evidence plays in fine-tuning discussions. That is, even if the evidence of fine-tuning appears to support one particular hypothesis more strongly than another, this does not always help us in deciding which hypothesis to prefer.

    LINK

    If a PDF version of this were to magically arrive in my inbox, I wouldn’t mind at all.

    bookmark_borderBlogging the Passive-Aggressive Way

    I just happened to go to the Triablogue website. I noticed that Hays dedicated an entire post to his combox exchange with me regarding the failure of the Resurrection as an explanatory hypothesis. I found it interesting  to see how he categorized the post:

    It appears that Hays has dedicated an entire blog post category or “label” to “Village Atheist.” Not all of his posts about comments made by atheists seem to be placed into this category, so one can only assume that he is using the label in a way that is consistent with its connotation, as a slur against what he takes to be stupid or unsophisticated atheist arguments.
    Too many people on both sides of theist-atheist discourse are verbally abusive. To be clear, no one is perfect. I’ve been guilty of this sort of thing myself. As tempting as it is to respond to Hays in kind, I’m going to take the high road. It would be nice if everyone could elevate the level of the discussion and keep it professional.

    bookmark_borderThe Cammels with Hammers Civility Pledge

    Daniel Fincke just posted this on his blog. Republishing here with his permission and with my full support.


    If you want to take this pledge too, post your signature and your comments and any personal addendums you make to it in the comments section below. Also consider reposting the full pledge and reasons for the pledge on your own blog and/or other social media outlets to make your commitment to civility explicit. Also consider inviting others to do the same. I encourage people to freely republish this document with attribution and with no omissions or amendments to the text. People are of course free to post it and then specify their personal amendments to it or to specify they want to omit pledging agreement to certain parts of it. But I do not want highly similar but amended versions of the document to circulate confused for the original and misattributed to me. Please respect this concern or I may have to protect the document’s integrity with copyright claims.

    “THE CAMELS WITH HAMMERS CIVILITY PLEDGE”

    by Daniel Fincke

    Reasons for the Pledge:

    I want to be able to engage in vigorous, rigorous, constructive, and truth-conducive public discussions about both the most philosophically fundamental and the most vitally urgent questions related to beliefs and values.

    For truth’s sake and for freedom’s sake, I want no controversial topics to be made taboo in all discussion forums and I want no disputable propositions whatsoever to be shielded from all sincere and thorough rational interrogation. I accept that either my beliefs and values, including those I that myself cherish the most, can prove themselves against vigorous, sincere, rational skepticism and challenge, or that they need to be modified or abandoned.

    I want to argue for what I think is true and good without hesitating over concerns that my views are too unpopular or unpleasant, and I want others to feel free to do the same.

    I want periodically to publicly reexamine my own beliefs and values for any possible errors they may contain, and to critically examine others’ ideas until I am adequately satisfied with them before feeling like I have to endorse or adopt them.

    I even may want the latitude of intellectual honesty to test ugly ideas that neither I nor most others even want to believe. I may want to do this so that we can thoroughly understand exactly why, or whether, such ideas are indeed as false as we would hope, or are as pernicious as we presume. It is important that rational people of good will have well-developed reasons, rather than just dogmatic moral condemnation, with which to answer the false and pernicious ideas of irrational, ill-willed, and bigoted people. This means rational people of good will should at least sometimes open-mindedly explore hypotheses that they or others may find morally or intellectually upsetting, and that they have the room to do this without being demonized.

    I realize that a huge obstacle to honest, thoroughgoing, and challenging public inquiries into the rightness of beliefs and values of the most fundamental importance and urgency is our shared natural tendencies to take abstract criticisms personally. I realize another huge obstacle is that most people naturally are tempted to become more dogmatically committed to their existing positions precisely when presented with potentially unsettling counter-arguments. I realize that in most cases these and related problematic tendencies are only exacerbated, rather than alleviated, when we explicitly or implicitly turn abstract intellectual inquiries into interpersonally hostile confrontations.

    I also realize that attempts to bully people into agreement with me by taking recourse to interpersonally aggressive treatment are antithetical to a principled commitment to respecting other people’s rationality and freedoms of intellectual conscience. Even where such appeals are successful, they come at a moral cost that should be seen as unacceptable to people committed to reason. I should want to persuade others into genuinely justified agreement with the best arguments and the most fair and relevant emotional appeals, rather than socially, emotionally, politically, or physically coerce them into acquiescence. Outside of the most extreme life and death circumstances, I should not consider the cause of winning people to my side philosophically or politically to be so important that I am willing to treat others abusively.

    It is, in the vast majority of cases, unethical to verbally abuse or otherwise attempt to emotionally bully others, no matter how right I might feel myself to be or how cathartic I might find the experience. Self-righteousness is a dangerous, blinding temptation. It leads to hypocritical double-standards, remorseless cruelty, smugness, authoritarianism, and false beliefs held with self-satisfaction. Worst of all, self-righteousness tempts us to become like the hateful people we start out opposing. So I should foreswear and guard against self-righteousness as conscientiously and with as much regular self-examination as possible. I should never consider myself to be so much better or righter than others that I see them as worthy of maltreatment and myself as morally pure enough to mete out their punishments of my own initiative.

    I understand also that I am not perfect. I may not have always lived up to the highest standards of civility, compassion, or rationality in the past. I may struggle as much as anyone else to do so in the future. Nonetheless, I resolve to the best of my ability to make the commitments in the pledge below in order to ensure that I am as constructive and ethical a participant in public discussions as possible, and to live as consistently according to my professed belief in the intellectual and moral worth of reason, freedom, and compassion as possible.

    The Pledge:

    1. I commit that I will engage in all public arguments with a sincere aim of mutual understanding, rather than only persuasion.

    I will make being honest, rationally scrupulous, and compassionate my highest priorities. I will conscientiously remain open to new ideas. I will consider the well being and growth of my interlocutors more important than whether they simply agree with me at the end of our exchanges. I am under no obligation to respect false or harmful beliefs or to hold back from expressing my own views or reservations forthrightly. I may even express them with passion and conviction where such are justifiable. Compatible with this, I will always respect my interlocutors as people and their rights to express their own views without personal abuse, even when I find myself riled up by them. I will cut off communications that are counter-productive to others’ well being or my own. I will respect others’ attempts to bow out of debates on particular topics or with me in particular. If I feel that I am in a position where my anger and frustration at the behavior
    of others, even entirely legitimate anger and frustration, is making the conversation less capable of constructive progress, I will remove myself and come back only at such time as I can be constructive again.

    2. I commit that I will tolerate the existence of people with dissenting ethical, religious, or political views.

    I will focus on understanding and appreciating what actual goods my philosophical or political enemies may be mistakenly trying to achieve and what genuinely occurring features of their experience they are inadequately trying to do justice to in their false beliefs. I will try to discern and appreciate what genuinely valuable moral and intellectual principles they intend to stand up for, no matter how wrong I think their ultimate ethical or factual conclusions might be. Wherever possible, I will try to find and affirm their good will, reasonableness, and any other potential sources of common ground, and work from there in order to persuade them of what I take to be their errors. If this proves impossible, I will simply stop engaging them directly and attack their ideas in the abstract, rather than make things acrimoniously personal.

    3. I commit that I will always focus first on the merits of other people’s arguments and not disparage them personally for asking unpleasant questions, taking unpleasant positions, or simply disagreeing with me.

    I will not assume the worst of all possible motives when people advance theses that I find false, morally repugnant, and/or potentially harmful. I will refute their arguments on their merits. I will discuss with them any harmful real world implications that I think would come from the promulgation or implementation of their ideas. I will not accuse them of wanting to perpetuate evils unless there is specific evidence that their ends are actually so malicious. I will try not to personalize intellectual disputes any more than is absolutely necessary. I will keep any personal fights that erupt limited to as few people as possible rather than incorporate more and more people into them.

    When I am having a personality conflict that is making progress in understanding seem impossible, I will drop communications with that person–with or without explanation as seems most potentially constructive. I will not escalate unproductive arguments that are becoming interpersonally acrimonious. I will not participate in ongoing interpersonal feuds between other people but only participate in discussions that stay focused on what is true, what the best principles are, and how such principles may be most fairly and efficiently implemented in the world. I will correct injustices, bad principles, and bad ideas in ways that are maximally productive for changing minds and real world policies while also minimally likely to create or escalate distracting counter-productive interpersonal feuds.

    4. When I feel it necessary to call out what I perceive to be the immoral behaviors or harmful attitudes of my interlocutors, I commit that I will do so only using specific charges, capable of substantiation, which they can contest with evidence and argumentation, at least in principle. I will not resort to merely abusive epithets and insult words (like “asshole” or “douchebag”) that hatefully convey fundamental disrespect, rather than criticize with moral precision.

    I will refrain from hurling hateful generalized abusive epithets and insults at people. I will refrain from leveling vague, unsubstantiated charges of terribleness at people. I will give them fair opportunities to explain themselves. I will challenge the wrongness of their specific actions or apparent attitudes rather than hastily cast aspersions on their entire character. Before ever making moral accusations, I will civilly warn them that something they do or say strikes me as morally wrong and offensive, and explain to them why.  I will give them a chance to retract, restate, and/or apologize before taking moral offense. I will analyze with self-directed skepticism whether my offense is rooted in a morally justifiable anger at provably unjust treatment, or whether it is just my discomfort with being disagreed with.

    I will always seek to maintain positive rapport with those who disagree with me as much as they enable. I will focus my criticisms on people’s ideas first and only if necessary criticize their attitudes, behaviors, or apparent character. I will not demean them fundamentally as a person. I will not uncharitably and hastily leap from specific bad thoughts, attitudes, or actions to wholesale disparagements of their entire character until there is overwhelming evidence that I am dealing with a fundamentally immoral person. And if I am dealing with such a person, I will use any of a wide array of highly specific available words

    to make moral charges soberly, constructively, descriptively accurately, and succinctly as possible before cutting off communications with them. And I will not take unnecessary recourse to abusive terms when plenty of civil and accurate words carrying heavy moral force are available to me.

    5. I commit that I will go out of my way, if necessary, to remember that members of traditionally marginalized groups and victims of abuse have experiences that I may not have and which I may have to strain to properly weigh and appreciate.

    People who have been personally abused or systemically discriminated against in ways that I have not may also be acutely aware of a social power differential with respect to me of which I may be unaware. This may make them feel frustrated and intimidated from speaking frankly, as well as more sensitized to potentially silencing and Othering implications of my language and ideas. I will be as sensitive to this reality as possible and as careful as possible with my language to reduce rather than exacerbate their feelings of social disempowerment. I also will take into account and accommodate the reality that people with high personal stakes in the outcomes of certain debates about values are, quite understandably, more prone to emotional intensity in their arguments and especially likely to bring unique insights that are indispensible to understanding the issue adequately.

    Of course none of this means I should feel compelled to surrender my own rational right and need to independently and rigorously assess what anyone says for its truth or goodness. I should not feel compelled to always and unconditionally agree with someone who has an experience or life situation different from my own. And I should not pretend to already fully accept beliefs or values of which I have not yet been satisfyingly convinced. I should also not tolerate normalization of emotional appeals
    of the kind that cross the line into bullying. But nonetheless, I will be extra cautious to learn from traditionally marginalized people about what disparately affects them in negative ways and about how to make discourses and other environments more inclusive to them. I will pay close attention to how hostile environments are implicitly created that exclude, silence, or otherwise adversely affect traditionally marginalized people, especially under the aegis of a perniciously false neutrality.

    On the other side, I will also be sensitive to preempt counter-productively defensive feelings and reactions of people in traditionally advantaged groups by carefully avoiding even the appearance of prejudicially disparaging them all as malicious oppressors. I will distinguish carefully between those motivated by animus and those who are in the main only passive beneficiaries and unwitting perpetuators of injustices, or biased in unintentional and unexamined ways. When rightly calling out such injustices and prejudices I will frame my criticisms and calibrate my level of antagonism with respect to how generally good or ill willed my interlocutor actually is. I will scrupulously distinguish criticisms of harmful systems from criticisms of individuals. I will criticize harmful behaviors without hastily assuming people have malicious intentions or morally repugnant character. I will always respect others’ rights to disagree with me, regardless of their race, color, creed, sexual orientation, gender identity, abilities, disabilities, sex, and unearned privileges (or lack thereof). I will avoid all disparagement of people based on such core identity-forming traits, whether it be disparagement aimed at members of groups with lesser or greater social power. I will neither flippantly nor seriously disparage people based on such kinds of traits or try to invalidate their experiences, even should I think that they are misinterpreting the significance of their experiences, or even should I believe they are more advantaged than most people and should be able to take harsher treatment on that account.

    6. I commit that I will not use any language that I know is offensive to either a subset of a marginalized group or to members of that group at large, for whatever reason.

    I will not use racial or ethnic slurs (like “nigger” or “kike”), gendered insults (like “bitch”, “dick”, “cunt”, “slut”), homophobic slurs (like “fag”), or transphobic slurs (like “tranny”). Regardless of my private standards or understandings I have with my friends or customs within my local culture, in public forums I will respect that such terms make at least a noticeable number of members of marginalized groups feel hated and unwelcome. This risks silencing them in unjust ways. I will err on the side of caution and maximum inclusion by removing such words from my public discourse as superfluous, potentially harmful, exclusionary, and counter-productive to my goals of rational persuasion. The English language is huge; I can find countless better words to use.

    7. I commit that I will not use any ableist language that disparages people over physical or mental limitations or illnesses.

    I will not falsely imply that people are in the main uneducable or incapable of rationality simply because they either disagree with me, have major intellectual blindspots, make huge intellectual errors, or prove generally unlearned in some specific area. This means that I will not call my interlocutors “retarded”, “stupid”, “idiotic”, “deranged”, or similar terms that convey with contemptuous hostility that I believe them beneath reasoning with and beneath treating as an equal, simply on account of what I take to be some major errors or areas of ignorance. All people can learn. All people can teach. Specific intellectual limitations, errors, and/or ignorance of a particular area of knowledge do not amount to “stupidity”.

    Calling people stupid is not only usually false and woefully imprecise, but it threatens to hatefully discourage people from learning and to destroy the hope for dialogue with them. It also disrespects the undereducated (many of whom are financially disadvantaged or otherwise socially disadvantaged and disempowered) and makes them justifiably resentful. For some it continues a pattern of abuse suffered from parents, peers, partners, and others in their lives who damaged them during childhood and have harmfully misled them to underestimate their actual intellectual potential. It also irrationally ignores the reality that all of us are regularly victims of cognitive biases and institutionally inculcated deceptions that to a large extent account for their errors. They deserve education, not derision.

    My interlocutors and I will both learn more if I try to understand the rationally explicable reasons for their errors and figure out how to most effectively correct them. I will also learn more if I conscientiously try to think up and refute the best arguments for my opponents’ views rather than seize on their arguments’ weaknesses and dismiss them categorically as “stupid”. I can point out the nature of mistakes more precisely, and with better hope of correcting them, if I engage in thinking together with people rather than disparaging and bullying them.

    8. I commit that I will always argue in good faith and never “troll” other people. I will respect both safe spaces and debate spaces and the distinctly valuable functions each can potentially serve. I will not disrupt the functioning of either kind of forum.

    I will respect that some venues are designed to be safe places for members of marginalized groups or abused people to seek refuge from abuse and certain forms of disagreement that they are, for good reason, not emotionally able to deal with. I will respect that these, and other venues designed
    for people with a shared ideological or philosophical disposition, are valuable. It is constructive to have some spaces where likeminded people can work out their views amongst themselves without always having to be distracted by calls for them to defend themselves on fundamental points.

    I will not deliberately troll or otherwise attempt to disrupt forums that exclude me on such grounds. If they refuse debates with people of my philosophical views, then I will not try to participate in their venue. On the flipside, if I desire to make a certain conversation or forum, even a public one, into a safe space where some types of arguments are not permitted, I will make that clear as early as possible. And if I am engaged in a debate in a public forum not designated as a safe space, I will accept that not everyone present is going to share my basic beliefs, knowledge base, values, or concerns, and I will not treat them with hostility on account of their disagreement with me about fundamental matters.

    Regardless of forum, if I decide to play devil’s advocate in hopes that it will help make a position’s merits clearer to me, I will be upfront about what I am doing so that I do not come off as obstinate or excessively antagonistic or in any other way a disingenuous “troll”. I will desist if others do not want me to play devil’s advocate to them whether because they find it badgering or trivializing of something important to them or for any other reason.

    9. I commit that I will apologize when I hurt others’ feelings, even when I do so unintentionally and even when I do not think their hurt feelings are justified.

    If I want to defend my actions or contest the moral justifiability of an outraged person’s feelings of offense, I will do so respectfully and always with an aim of mutual understanding. I commit to not treating those who accidentally upset or offend me as though they intentionally did so. I will accept sincere apologies that take adequate responsibility without requiring groveling and total surrender on all points of contention (especially if some matters at stake are distinctly separable from the offense and are rationally disputable). I will foster environments in which people feel comfortable expressing when their feelings are hurt because everyone regularly offers, and receptively takes, constructive criticisms. This happens where criticism is regularly free of hatred, demonization, and implicit or explicit purity tests and threats of ostracism. So I will oppose all such things.

    10. I commit that I will hold my allies and myself to the highest standards of civil, good-willed, compassionate, and reason-based argumentation and ethical conduct, regardless of whether our enemies do the same, and regardless of the rectitude of our cause.

    I will not defensively interpret sincere criticism from my allies as personal betrayal. I will be as above reproach as possible with respect to all charges of bullying, feuding, escalation, bad faith argumentation, ad hominem tactics, well-poisoning, trolling, marginalization, strawmanning, sock puppetry, tribalism, purity testing, sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, classism, ableism, goading, micro-aggressiveness, passive aggressiveness, and personalization of disputes. While not compromising my intellectual conscience for the sake of politeness, I will manage to model a conciliatory and reasonable spirit. While I may advocate forthrightly for ethical debate and treatment of others generally, I will spend as much or more of my energies scrutinizing my own public contributions for ways I can make them more rational, civil, compassionate, and persuasive than I will policing the behaviors of others I encounter.

    11. I commit that I will not make accusations of guilt by association.

    I will neither assume that one’s association with another person implies agreement with any specific belief, action, or behavior of that person, and nor will I assume that someone’s agreement with another person on a specific point implies agreements on any other specific points. I will hold people accountable only for their own expressed views and not for the views of everyone with whom they associate. I also will not assume total agreement and endorsement of all the ideas in books, thinkers, or links that someone recommends as interesting.

    12. I commit that I will not use mockery and sarcasm in ways that try to belittle other people.

    I recognize funny and perceptive satire’s indispensible and unique abilities to illumine truths and rationally persuade people. And I feel free to humorously point out apparent absurdities in others’ arguments or beliefs during discussions. But I will draw the line at using humor to personally attack, harass, or silence individuals with whom I am engaged. I will be cautious that my ridicule during discussions is aimed squarely at beliefs and does not have the likely effect of making my interlocutors feel like I am flippantly contemptuous of their reasoning abilities en toto or of their worth as people. In short, I will use humor to challenge and persuade others, rather than to abuse and alienate them.

    13. I commit that I will empathetically, impartially, and with reasonable mercy enforce the standards of civility and compassion laid out in this pledge in any venues (including but not limited to: blogs, Facebook pages, subreddits, and discussion forums) where I have moderation powers with sufficient latitude to set and enforce standards.

    Even in safe spaces where debates on certain kinds of topics are understandably restricted for people’s well being, I will still adhere to all the rest of the principles of compassion, charity, and civility in arguments here laid out.

    Signed,

    Daniel Fincke