bookmark_borderWikipedia Article on ‘Religion’ of $cientology’s Founder, L. Ron Hubbard

I vaguely remember an atheist once joking that if you wanted to get really rich you should start a religion. While certain televangelists might seem to give that idea some credibility, I doubt that most religious founders can be explained that way. But I don’t really want to focus on that topic generally.
Instead, I think it’s interesting to narrow the topic and focus specifically on L. Ron Hubbard. If, like me, you think Scientology is a pack of lies, do you think L. Ron Hubbard himself believed the claims of Scientology? If not, what do you think he believed?
I, for one, doubt whether Hubbard was sincere. At least in Hubbard’s case, it does seem like he was a fraud who was trying to make money off his gullible followers. But if Hubbard “deep down” wasn’t actually a believing Scientologist, what was he?
What if L. Ron Hubbard were an atheist, while he claimed to be a Scientologist? 

bookmark_borderResponse to Dr. William Lane Craig – Part 1

Dr. William Craig –
Thank you for reading some of my blog posts criticizing your case for the resurrection of Jesus.  Although you object to the tone of the blog posts as using “vitriolic language”, you nevertheless took the time not only to read what I had to say, but also to respond to some of my points:
In doing so, you demonstrate the virtue of scholarship and are following in the footsteps of Thomas Aquinas, who also spent a good deal of his time giving serious consideration to the objections of skeptics and to the ideas of those who had points of view that differed from his own point of view.
I have dozens of points to make in reply to your comments on my blog posts, but since you have already given generously of your time to read and comment on my skeptical posts, I will limit myself to making just a few points, for now.
You made some statements about my credentials and scholarship to which I would like to respond:
It is evident that this is not a work of scholarship, if I may say so. He tells us that he had once aspired to go on to do M.A. work but his plans didn’t work out. This blog is characterized by a kind of vitriolic language that is not the language of scholarship.
First of all, let me make some significant concessions towards your point: you are a scholar, and I am not a scholar.  I view myself as a well-informed intellectual, not as a scholar.  I write blog posts, not peer-reviewed articles for journals of philosophy.
I appreciate scholars and scholarship, including you and your scholarly work.  The passionate tone of my blog posts that you read comes out of my view of the importance of scholarship and my belief that you are not living up to your full potential as a scholar, and to your intellectual obligations as a scholar, because of your failure to make a serious historical case for the death of Jesus on the cross.
Gary Habermas and Michael Licona have attempted to make an historical case for the death of Jesus on the cross in their book The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (p.99-103), and Norman Geisler has made an attempt to make such a case in his book When Skeptics Ask (p.120-123).  Geisler’s case is clearly superior to yours, even though the resurrection is only one of many topics that he covers in this book.  Geisler’s case is weak and defective, and the case made by Habermas and Licona is not much better.  I think that you can and should create a better and more scholarly case for the claim that “Jesus died on the cross”.
You and I appear to agree on a key point: you have not made a serious historical case for the claim that “Jesus died on the cross.”  Where we disagree is that you believe that you are NOT under an intellectual obligation to make such a case, but I believe that in making the claim that “Jesus rose from the dead”, you take on the burden of proof to show, on the basis of historical evidence, that Jesus did in fact die on the cross.
I will have more to say on this disagreement between us on another day.  For now, I just want to correct your statement about my credentials and educational background.
You stated about me that, “He tells us that he had once aspired to go on to do M.A. work but his plans didn’t work out.”  I think you are sincere but misunderstood what I wrote about my educational background in the post. Your statement strongly suggests that I did NOT earn an M.A. in philosophy.
On the contrary, my plans to do M.A. work DID work out. I earned an M.A. in philosophy from the University of Windsor, and after that I did a number of years of graduate study in philosophy at U.C. Santa Barbara, and completed all requirements for a PhD in philosophy, except for the doctoral dissertation.
Further Details on My Background in Philosophy:
I graduated cum laude with a B.A. in philosophy and “with distinction” in philosophy from Sonoma State University.  I learned about critical thinking from two leading figures in the critical thinking movement: Dr. Richard Paul (co-author of Critical Thinking: Tools for Taking Charge of Your Professional and Personal Life) and Dr. Harvey Siegel.  I became a teaching assistant for critical thinking classes taught by Dr. Richard Paul.
My first course in philosophy of religion was taught by Dr. Siegel.  I also did some independent studies in philosophy of religion under Dr. Richard Paul.  I learned symbolic logic at Sonoma State University from Stan McDaniel.  When Professor McDaniel gave the final exam for symbolic logic to about 70 students, only one student got 100% of the problems and questions correct; that student was me.
I went on to do graduate study and earned an M.A. in Philosophy from the University of Windsor (in Windsor, Ontario).  I went to the University of Windsor so that I could study under two leading figures in the Informal Logic movement: Dr. Ralph Johnson and J. Anthony Blair (authors of the textbook Logical Self-Defense).  I helped them teach their class in logic and reasoning.
At the University of Windsor, I had a seminar on “Classical Empiricism” (grade: A-) led by the Hume scholar John P. Wright.  I had a course in “Theory of Argument” (grade: A) from J. Anthony Blair, an expert in Informal Logic.  I also took a course in “Recent British Philosophy” (grade: A), and a departmental seminar on Epistemology (grade: A-) that was an historical survey starting with ancient Greek philosophers (Plato and Aristotle) and ending with Wittgenstein in the 20th century, led by various members of the philosophy department.  My M.A. thesis was in the area of Informal Logic (“Carl Wellman’s Challenge to Deductivism”).
After that, I went on to do graduate study in the doctoral program in philosophy at U.C. Santa Barbara.  When I applied to do graduate studies at U.C. Santa Barbara, Dr. Richard Paul, a leader of the critical thinking movement, wrote a strong letter of recommendation for me, which concluded with the following paragraph:
Bradley Bowen, I am confident, can and will successfully compete at any graduate school in the country and will distinguish himself wherever he goes.  I look forward to further opportunities to collaborate with him on work in the field of critical thinking and to reading his future articles and books.  I recommend him to you enthusiastically and confidently and without any reservations whatsoever.  He is the best student I have had in twenty years of teaching.
I successfully completed all required coursework for the PhD in philosophy, and passed the Qualifying Paper to advance to candidacy for the PhD, but did not complete my doctoral dissertation, which was on the resurrection of Jesus.  I spent many years working on that dissertation, and am still working on it now and then, as I find time.
I was a teaching assistant at UCSB for logic, critical thinking, introduction to philosophy, and for philosophy of religion. I also taught a course in Introduction to Ethics as well as an upper division course in Applied Analytical Reasoning.
At U.C. Santa Barbara I studied Philosophy of Religion (grade: A-) with Dr. J. William Forgie, Social Philosophy (grade: A-), Seminar in Aristotle (grade: A-) with Dr. Charlotte Stough (an expert in ancient Greek philosophy), Advanced Symbolic Logic (grade: A) with Dr. Nathan Salmon, Seminar in Ethics (grade: A-) with Dr. Christopher McMahon, Descartes (grade: A), Seminar in Epistemology (grade: A-), Ethical Theory (grade: A-) with Dr. Christopher McMahon, Locke (grade: A-), Kant (grade: B+) with Dr. Anthony Brueckner, Seminar in History of Philosophy (grade: B+), Philosophy of Feminism (grade: A), and Seminar in Ethics (grade: A) with Dr. Christopher McMahon.
My Qualifying Paper for advancement to candidacy for a PhD was on “Plantinga’s Response to the Evidentialist Challenge”.
So, my education in philosophy went well beyond earning an M.A. in philosophy from the University of Windsor.
Here is an INDEX to posts in this series.

bookmark_borderWilliam Craig’s Response to My Objections on the Resurrection

I just found out (purely by accident) that William Craig has read one or more of my posts criticizing his case for the Resurrection and responded to some of my objections:
So, now I need to take a look at his responses, and see whether they are clear, relevant, accurate, etc.
Here are the blog posts of mine that Craig addresses:
Please let me know if you agree with some of Craig’s responses (and explain why you agree),  and if you disagree with some of Craig’s responses (and explain why you disagree).
Here is an INDEX to posts in this series.

bookmark_borderReligious Nutcase Elected President of the USA

As Keith Parsons has recently argued, it is difficult to separate religion from politics.  This is especially true of the current political  campaigns for the presidency of the United States of America.
Unfortunately, the uglier side of religion is intruding into U.S. politics.  Currently,  some polls are indicating that the religious nutcase Ben Carson is the leading contender to become the next presidential nominee of the Republicans.  If Carson continues to do well with Republican primary voters, then the title of this post could become a reality.
No woman (and no one who cares about women) should vote for Carson, because not only would he “love” to see Roe v. Wade overturned but he is opposed to abortion even in cases of rape and incest.  In fact, Carson is unsure about whether abortion should be allowed even when the mother’s life is at risk:
Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson said he would “love” to see Roe vs. Wade overturned and make abortion illegal nationwide with almost no exemptions.
“I’m a reasonable person and if people can come up with a reasonable explanation of why they would like to kill a baby, I’ll listen,” Carson said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
While the Republican candidate said he opposes abortions for unwanted pregnancies and in cases of rape and incest, the retired neurosurgeon told moderator Chuck Todd he might be open to allowing abortions to preserve the life and health of the mother.
“That’s an extraordinarily rare situation,” Carson said. “But if in that very rare situation it occurred, I believe there’s room to discuss that.”
No elderly person (and no one with elderly parents) should vote for Carson, because Carson wants to end both Medicare and Medicaid:

Republicans have fended off accusations for years that they’d gut Medicare for seniors and end the program “as we know it.”

Not Ben Carson. The former neurosurgeon acknowledges he would abolish the program altogether.

Carson, who now leads the GOP field in Iowa according to the latest Quinnipiac Poll, would eliminate the program that provides health care to 49 million senior citizens, as well as Medicaid, and replace it with a system of cradle-to-grave savings accounts which would be funded with $2,000 a year in government contributions. While rivals have been pummeled for proposing less radical changes, Carson hasn’t faced the same scrutiny — and his continued traction in polls has left GOP strategists and conservative health care wonks scratching their heads.
No college-educated person should vote for Carson, because Carson rejects scientific conclusions on evolution, the Big Bang, global warming, and homosexuality:

This actually goes way back. In 2006 he clearly stated his anti-evolutionary views and has repeated these claims many times since. In 2012 there was controversy over this when he was asked to give the commencement address at Emory University. In 2004 he said that people who accept evolution “dismiss ethics,” a comment he later backed down on a very tiny little bit (later saying they “might have more difficulty deriving where their ethics come from”).
I’d heard about all this before, but an article at BuzzFeed has something I hadn’t heard: In 2012, in a speech at an event called “Celebration of Creation,” he said that Darwin came up with evolutionary theory because the devil made him do it.
I mean that literally. He said, “I personally believe that this theory that Darwin came up with was something that was encouraged by the adversary.” The Adversary is a nickname for the devil; it’s the actual translation of the word “Satan.” So there’s that.
He also dismissed the Big Bang, calling it a “fairy tale.” The irony of this is palpable. When recently called on this claim, he dug in, saying (about people who think the Big Bang is true), “Here’s the key, I then say to them look, ‘I’m not gonna criticize you, you have a lot more faith then I have.’ I couldn’t, I don’t have enough faith to believe that.”
[When asked about global warming Ben Carson responded:]

“There’s always going to be either cooling or warming going on,” the potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate said in an interview this weekend in Des Moines, Iowa. “As far as I’m concerned, that’s irrelevant. What is relevant is that we have an obligation and a responsibility to protect our environment.”

Carson, a retired Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon, often talks about his medical background and science during his speeches. Pressed on the fact that the bulk of the scientific community believes the Earth is indeed warming, Carson pivoted. “You can ask it several different ways, but my answer is going to be the same,” he said. “We may be warming. We may be cooling.”
During the interview Wednesday morning, when Carson was asked by Chris Cuomo whether being gay is a choice, he replied: “Absolutely.”

“Because a lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight — and when they come out, they’re gay. So, did something happen while they were in there? Ask yourself that question,” Carson said.

bookmark_borderThe Slaughter of the Canaanites – The Grand Inquisitor Jones – Part 3

“If the facts are against you, argue the law. If the law is against you, argue the facts. If the law and the facts are against you, pound the table and yell like hell.”

Carl Sandburg, in The People, Yes (1936)

One response to my sixty objections against Clay Jones’s attempt to defend Jehovah’s command to the Israelites to slaughter the Canaanites (men, women, and children), is that my my objections “argue the law” thus betraying a reluctance to “argue the facts”.  There is some truth to this point.  I have indeed focused primarily on “arguing the law”.  That is because the laws of Jehovah are clearly sexist, arbitrary, unclear, and harsh (indicating that Jehovah was either stupid or unjust or both).
However, the FACTS are not especially on Jones’s side either.  Jones actually makes very little effort to “argue the facts”.  So I’m more than happy to shift gears for a bit and to show that Jones’s attempt to justify Jehovah’s command to slaughter the Canaanites (men, women, and children) fails even when the focus is placed on “arguing the facts”.
I will imagine that it is my own daughters (at ages 8 and 18) who are being charged with a sin or crime that Jones believes to be worthy of the death penalty.  I will imagine Clay Jones to present the case for convition and for the punishment of death (based on his comments in his article “Killing the Canaanites“), and I will imagine that it is my job to vigorously defend my daughters against the charges and the case made by Jones, to ensure that they are given a fair trial.
In Part 1, I presented a mini-trial of Lisa and Kathy conerning the charge of IDOLATRY.  In Part 2, I presented a mini-trial of Lisa and Kathy conerning the charge of INCEST.  Today, Grand Inquisitor Jones will take another swing at these two girls, arguing that they have committed the sin or crime of ADULTERY.

Judge:  The Grand Inquisitor Jones will now present his case against the accused, and then Bradley For the Defense will present objections and arguments defending the accused.

GI Jones:  Thank you, your honor.  Ladies and gentlemen of the jury: today I will present to you my case for the charge that Lisa (age 8) is guilty of the horrible crime or sin of ADULTERY, and for the charge that her older sister Kathy (age 18) is also guilty of this terrible crime or sin, and that because of this horrible sin or crime, they both deserve the penalty of DEATH; they both deserve to have their heads chopped off by a sword-wielding, Jehovah-worshiping soldier of the army of Israel.*

Lisa and Kathy have committed the crime or sin of ADULTERY.  I assure you that both of these wicked girls are Canaanites who were raised to worship the gods of the Canaanites. Canaanite religion, like that of all of the ANE [Ancient Near East], was a fertility religion that involved temple sex. Inanna/Ishtar, also known as the Queen of Heaven, “became the woman among the gods, patron of eroticism and sensuality, of conjugal love as well as adultery, of brides and prostitutes, transvestites and pederasts.”  As University of Helsinki professor Martti Nissinen writes, “Sexual contact with a person whose whole life was devoted to the goddess was tantamount to union with the goddess herself.”  [The preceding italicized sentences are a quote from Clay Jones’s article.]

Since these two Canaanite girls have participated in worship of a female goddess who was a patron of conjugal love as well as adultery, and since the worship of Canaanite gods involved temple sex, where a married man could have sex with a woman who was not his wife but who was devoted to the goddess Inanna/Ishtar, as a part of the worship of the goddess,  these two girls must have been inspired by the practice of temple sex and by the goddess of sex and adultery to engage in adultery themselves.

So, you must, on the basis of these facts, deliver a verdict of “Guilty” and condemn these evil and perverse girls to death by beheading.  Thank you, ladies and gentlemen of the jury for your attention to my case for the guilt of Lisa and Kathy.

BFD:  What the hell!  Is this a joke?  I was expecting hours of testimony from multiple eyewitnesses, or at least a lengthy presentation of dozens of facts to make a circumstantial case for the guilt of the accused girls.  But instead we are offered a fifteen-second, purely speculative “argument”.  Grand Inquisitor Jones, have you no shame, sir?

The Grand Inquisitor has failed to cite the law that the defendants have violated, and the Grand Inquisitor has not even hinted at what he means by “the crime or sin of ADULTERY”, so we have no clear idea of what the defendants are being accused of doing, or whether the law even applies to these beautiful, charming, and intelligent girls.  Since the laws of Jehovah were directed to the men of Israel, the presumption is that any such laws do NOT apply to young girls who are Canaanites, not Israelites.

Though GI Jones has utterly failed to make a rational case against the defendants in terms of the alleged law against ADULTERY, let’s ignore that for the moment, and simply assume the common sense notion that the word “adultery” means: 

Either (a) being a married person and  (while still married) having sexual intercourse with a person to whom one is not married, 

OR (b) being an unmarried person and (while still unmarried) having sexual intercourse with a married person.

Since GI Jones has presented ZERO facts to show that either Lisa or Kathy have ever had sexual intercourse with ANYONE, there is no case here to consider.

All we have is GI Jones’ personal assertion that Lisa and Kathy “were raised to worship the gods of the Canaanites” and that one of the gods of the Canaanites was the patron of both conjugal love and adultery.  So what?  The fact that they worshiped a god who was patron of “conjugal love as well as adultery,” does not mean that these girls had any interest or desire to engage in adultery, nor does this show that they ever in fact engaged in adultery.

Jehovah was “a mighty warrior” (Jer. 20:11, see also Zeph. 3:17) and thus a patron of warfare in the religion of the Israelites.  Does that mean that every girl and young woman in Israel was a warrior?  Does that mean that every girl and young woman of Israel has killed an enemy in battle?  Of course not.  The fact that Jehovah was viewed as “a mighty warrior” and as a patron of warfare in the religion of the Israelites does NOT by itself prove anything about the behavior of individual Israelites.

The fact that the Canaanites worshipped a goddess who was a patron of “conjugal love as well as adultery” does not even show that adultery was a generally accepted behavior among Canaanites.  Notice that the Grand Inquisitor does not mention the legal status of adultery among Canaanites.  This suggests that adultery was prohibited by Canaanite laws, and that GI Jones chose to keep this relevant information to himself.

The Oxford Bible Commentary offers some evidence on this point:

Sexual mores were fairly uniform throughout the ancient Near East.  For example, adultery was universally condemned (cf. Codex Hammurabi 129-132). (The Oxford Bible Commentary, p.103 – comment on Leviticus 18:24-30)

We previously saw that INCEST was prohibited among Canaanites, even though some of their gods were portrayed as engaging in incest, so it should be no surprise that ADULTERY was also prohibited among Canaanites, even if they worshiped a goddess who was the patron of “conjugal love as well as adultery”.

But what about “temple sex”?  If a married man had sex with a priestess or devotee of the goddess Inanna/Ishtar as a part of the worship of the goddess, then he would be committing adultery as a part of a religious ritual.  Wouldn’t this send a message to Canaanite children and young people that adulterous sex was acceptable behavior?  There are several problems here that cast doubt on this assumption.

First of all, were children and teenagers allowed to observe such religious rituals?  We don’t know, and GI Jones has presented no facts showing this to be the case.  Second, even assuming that children and teenagers were allowed to observe this ritual, would they know that the man who was having sex with the woman was a married man having sex with a woman who was not his wife?  I doubt that Canaanite children went to Sunday school to be taught such details about Canaanite religious rituals, and GI Jones offers no facts indicating that Canaanite children received detailed lessons about Canaanite religious rituals.

Third, was this a weekly ritual?  a monthly ritual? a yearly ritual?  GI Jones offers no information about the frequency of such rituals.  Some Christians go to church services and prayer meetings and bible studies on a daily basis.  Other Christians go just to church services on Sundays, and many Christians only show up to church once or twice a year, on Easter or Christmas.   It seems likely that Canaanites did not always show up to every Canaanite religous ceremony, so even if “temple sex” was a regular (weekly or monthly) ritual, many Canaanites might only observe this ritual once or twice a year.

Finally, a BIG problem with the assumption that observing temple sex would encourage people to believe that adultery was OK, is that temple sex was NOT actually adultery!  More accurately,  the laws of Jehovah do NOT prohibit adultery in general (as we have defined the word), but only prohibit ONE form of adultery, and this prohibited form of adultery does NOT occur when a married man has sex with an unmarried woman:

The commandment’s prohibition [related to adultery] is thus a narrow one. Because it is addressed to men, it does not explicitly prohibit women from having sex with married men, or, for that matter, prohibit married men from having sex with unmarried women, including prostitutes. (God and Sex by Michael Coogan, p.103)

In the ancient Near East and the OT (Lev. 18:20; 20:10; Deut. 22:22) adultery meant consensual sexual intercourse by a married woman with a man other than her husband.  However, intercourse between a married man and another woman was not considered adultery unless she was married. (Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, p.23)

Therefore, when a married man had “temple sex” with a woman other than his wife, this might well have NOT been a violation of Jehovah’s law concerning adultery, since a woman who was a priestess or devotee of  a Canaanite goddess might well be an unmarried woman.

Finally, even if it could be proven that Canaanites in general viewed adultery as an acceptable behavior, and even if Canaanites in general desired to engage in adultery, and even if Canaanites in general attempted to engage in adultery, this is NOT sufficient reason for convicting these two particular Canaanite girls and condemning them to have their heads chopped off!

At the most, the sort of evidence that GI Jones offers shows that there is some modest probabiltiy that one or both of these two girls has committed the sin or crime of adultery, but such a weak conclusion falls obviously and hopelessly short of the requirement that guilt be established beyond any reasonable doubt, especially in a capital case.

Let’s briefly consider each category of adultery, in accordance with the above common-sense understanding of what “adultery” means.

1.  Was either of these girls a married person who (while still married) had sexual intercourse with a person to whom she was not married?

Obviously Lisa, who is only eight years old, is NOT a married person, so she clearly did NOT commit this form of adultery.

Kathy is eighteen years old, so it is legally possible for her to be a married person.  However, I have submitted into evidence sworn statements from Kathy’s parents and three of her friends that she has never been married, and GI Jones has provided no evidence that Kathy has ever been married.  So, there has been no case presented for the claim that Kathy has committed this form of adultery.

2. Was either of these girls an unmarried person who (while still being unmarried) had sexual intercourse with a married person?

Lisa is an eight year old child.  So, if Lisa did have sex with a married man that would presumably be an instance of CHILD RAPE by the married man, and not the sin or crime of adultery by Lisa.  If the laws of Jehovah demanded the death penalty for a victim of CHILD RAPE, then that would only prove that the laws of Jehovah were obviously and greviously UNJUST.  But there is no reason to believe that the laws of Jehovah demanded the execution of victims of CHILD RAPE.  So, Lisa cannot be convicted of this form of adultery.

Kathy is eighteen years old, so it is reasonable to hold her accountable for consensual sexual activity in which she has (recently) been involved. However, as we have previously shown, there is NO prohibition in the laws of Jehovah against a married man having sex with an unmarried woman.  Even if it could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Kathy has had sex with a married man, neither the man nor Kathy would be guilty of violating a law of Jehovah, because Kathy is an unmarried woman.  Therefore, because this court is only concerned with violations of the laws of Jehovah, Kathy cannot be convicted or punished by this court for engaging in this form of adultery.

In conclusion, we have examined the two basic kinds of adultery, in accordance with this common-sense understanding of the meaning of the word “adultery”:  Either (a) being a married person and  (while still married) having sexual intercourse with a person to whom one is not married, OR (b) being an unmarried person and (while still unmarried) having sexual intercourse with a married person.

In NO CASE did we find a specific kind of adultery in which both of the following requirements were met:

(1) the specific form of adultery in question was prohibited by a law of Jehovah, AND

(2) the factual evidence presented here by GI Jones proves beyond a reasonable doubt that one or both of these two girls had engaged in that specific form of adultery.

Because the Grand Inquisitor Jones has failed to meet both requirements for EITHER of the two different forms of adultery, you must return a verdict of NOT GUILTY.

Please return a verdict of NOT GUILTY for the two beautiful, charming, intelligent, and loving girls who are standing at my side today.  There have been no specific facts or evidence presented by the Grand Inquisitor Jones showing that they have engaged in any form of adultery prohibited by the laws of Jehovah.  Let there be no chopping off heads today; declare Lisa and Kathy NOT GUILTY.


* I do have children, but the names and ages given here are not the actual names and ages of my children.

bookmark_borderIs Extremism Political, Religious, or Political/Religious?

Atheist author and blogger Dan Arel as recently written that he was wrong in his previous response to the critiques of Islam by “new atheists” such as Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins:
To admit in public that one was wrong requires a greater commitment to honesty and truth than to ego, and this is rare. So, Arel is to be commended and his example should be emulated.
His earlier critique had rejected the claim of Harris and Dawkins that religion motivates Islamic extremism. As with many other commentators, generally of a liberal tilt, Arel previously rejected such a claim as Islamophobic. Rather, the causes of “Islamic” extremism are not the tenets of religion, but are located in socio-economic and political causes. Young Arab males are often jobless, powerless, disaffected, and angry. They see Western powers as hegemonic and exploitative in their actions and intentions. They live in oppressive, autocratic, or dysfunctional societies that offer them few opportunities for economic advancement and none for political participation. As a consequence, they become radicalized. While their radicalism is superficially religious, and while religion may serve as a catalyst for their radicalization, the true underlying motivation is a sense of outrage that is politically and economically induced. Let’s call this the “socio/economic theory” (SET) of Islamic radicalism.
While it is, of course, important to repudiate Islamophobia and the ignorant smearing of the world’s 1.7 billion Muslims, SET has always struck me as implausible in the extreme. When people turn themselves into living bombs and shout praises to their God as they detonate in a crowded marketplace, it would seem that their act has something to do with their religion. Further, if you ask the radicals why they do what they do, they will again and again give a religious justification. Indeed, religious slogans and quotes from the Qur’an are constantly on their lips. SET therefore has to assume that these persons are wholly inept at discerning their own motives. Of course, we have known at least since Freud that we are not wholly transparent to ourselves and that our true motivations may differ from our felt motivations. However, it seems presumptuous, and perhaps patronizing, to assume that Islamic radicals must be fooling themselves. When an ostensibly sane person insistently and consistently assures us that he is motivated to do X because of Y, it seems wise to accept that Y, at least prima facie, isthat person’s motivation for doing X.
Further, SET seems to assume that religion’s power to motivate is much less than socio-economic factors. It is curious why anyone would think this; maybe the ghost of Karl Marx continues to haunt the minds of many liberal analysts. On the contrary, it is clear that religion has the power to touch the deepest passions, to evoke the strongest loyalties, and to provoke the most intransigent defiance. It is hard to see how even a cursory acquaintance with episodes such as the Reformation could fail to teach this lesson. Even if smoldering resentments initially arise from economic or social injustice, religion can be the high-octane fuel that turns the slow burn into a conflagration. Your outrage is no longer just your own personal grievance (or even a national or ethnic grievance). Religion absorbs that outrage and gives it a transcendent justification. You are no longer just angry for yourself; you are angry for God. You have the blessedness of knowing that God hates what you hate. Further, God’s will trumps all ordinary inhibitions of compassion or compunction since God’s enemies deserve no consideration.
Finally, SET apparently assumes that the terms of our analyses, such as “religion,” “politics,” and “economics,” are in practice sufficiently separable to be placed in opposition and their relative effects measured. In fact, even a clear-cut conceptual distinction between these factors is not always possible. Even in the United States, where Jefferson’s Wall of Separation is still respected despite strenuous efforts to breach it, religion and politics are closely conceptually intertwined. Indeed, you just cannot understand the religious right in this country without seeing their tenets as politicized religion and theologized politics. In many Islamic countries the very idea of a distinction between the religious and political spheres would sound paradoxical if not incoherent. For them, political concerns are religious concerns and vice versa. Analysts who try to parse out the relative contributions of religion and politics are attempting to impose an artificial bifurcation upon people who would not recognize or admit it. In short, if religion and politics are two heads of the same ideological animal, you can separate the heads only by cutting the animal in two.
In conclusion, to the extent that religion can be identified as a distinct element of the witch’s brew that is radical Islamist ideology, it is fallacious to downplay or dismiss its influence. The motives for the attempt to do so may be commendable, but only truth can provide the basis for an effective response to a terrible problem. The only effective response to Islamic radicalism must be political, economic, AND religious. Only justice, prosperity, AND theological moderation will help.

bookmark_borderWhat is Philosophy – Part 2

Some people (who are sadly mistaken) think that the question “What is philosophy?” can be answered simply by picking up a dictionary and reading the definition (or definitions) of the word “philosophy”.  Although it is delusional to look to a dictionary to resolve this issue, it is not a bad idea to start out this investigation by taking a look at some dictionary definitions, on the assumption that this is only a first step of an inquiry, not the last step.
Some basic clarification and disambiguation can be accomplished by dictionary definitions, and by carefully examining and critiquing dictionary definitions, one can at least come up with some hints and criteria for development of a definition or analysis that is better than available dictionary definitions.
When you work on constructing your own definition or analysis of “philosophy” you want to produce something that is AT LEAST as good as a dictionary definition, and that, hopefully, is AN IMPROVEMENT over available dictionary definitions.  One way to determine whether a proposed definition or analysis of “philosophy” is better than a dictionary definition is by first establishing some specific problems or defects contained in some dictionary definitions of “philosophy”.  If the new proposed definition avoids those specific problems or defects, then that would be evidence that the new definition is an improvement over the dictionary definitions.
Before we begin looking at dictionary definitions, there are a couple of points concerning conceptual analysis that we can borrow from modern philosophy.  First, there might be no essence of philosophy.  There might be no specific characteristic that ALL instances or examples of philosophy have in common.  There might only be a “family resemblance” among a fairly diverse range of examples of things that count as “philosophy”.
If that is so, then a necessary-and-sufficient condition definition will not fully and accurately capture the meaning of the word “philosophy”.  Instead, we might need to construct a criterial definition, which specifies various relevant criteria or characteristics that tend to make something an instance of “philosophy”, where no particular criterion must be satisfied by ALL instances of philosophy, and where the more criteria are satisfied by a particular example, the more clearly and definitely the word “philosophy” would properly apply to that example.  With criterial definitions, there can be significant ‘gray areas” and “borderline cases” where a word is somewhat applicable, and somewhat not applicable.
Closely related to “family resemblance” and criterial definitions, is the idea of a paradigm case.  If there are borderline cases of a concept, then there can also be central or paradigm cases of a concept.  So, if “philosophy” is a family resemblance concept, or if it needs to be defined in terms of a criterial definition, then we will need to think about paradigm cases and clear-cut cases, and contrast those with borderline cases, where the word “philosophy” partially fits, but also partially does not fit.
So, keeping in mind these points about conceptual analysis, lets take a look at some dictionary definitions, and note both positive features of some definitions, as well as any apparent problems or defects with those definitions.  Based on identification of both positive and negative aspects of dictionary definitions of “philosophy”, we might be able to establish some hints and/or criteria that would be useful for evaluation of any new proposed definitions of “philosophy”.
Jesus H Christ.  There are twelve different definitions of “philosophy” in The American Heritage Dictionary (2nd College Edition).  
The first defintion is also divided into three different related senses of the word.  Since the three related senses in the first definition don’t look very similar to me, this dictionary in effect provides FOURTEEN different definitions for the word “philosophy”.  I will, however, stick with the numbering scheme provided by the dictionary.  Hopefully, we can eliminate several of these definitions as irrelevant to our inquiry:
1a. Love and pursuit of wisdom by intellectual means and moral self-discipline.
1b. The investigation of causes and laws underlying reality.
1c. A system of philosophical inquiry or demonstration.
2. Inquiry into the nature of things based on logical reasoning rather than empirical methods.
3. The critique and analysis of fundamental beliefs as they come to be conceptualized and formulated.
4. The synthesis of all learning.
5. The investigation of natural phenomena and its systematization in theory and experiment, as in alchemy, astrology, or astronomy: hermetic philosophy, natural philosophy.
6. All learning except technical precepts and practical arts.
7. All the disciplines presented in university curriculums of science and the liberal arts, except medicine, law, and theology:  Doctor of Philosophy.
8.  The science comprising logic, ethics, aesthetics, metaphysics, and epistemology.
9.  A system of motivating concepts or principles: the philosophy of a culture.
10. A basic theory; viewpoint: an original philosophy of advertising.
11. The system of values by which one lives: his philosophy of life.
12. The calmness, equanimity, and detachment thought to benefit a philosopher.
I put definitions 2, 3, and 8 in red font, because those three definitions seemed to be the best of the bunch. I definitiely want to take a closer look at these three definitions to see what insights they contain and what we might be able to borrow from them in constructing a new and better definition of “philosophy”.
Definitions 4, 6, and 7  are in gray font because they are obviously too broad and can be immediately set aside.  We are interested in the idea of philosophy as a particular academic discipline (or as a possible academic discipline), so uses of the word “philosophy” that encompass diverse acadmic disciplines are irrelevant to our current investigation.
Definitions 1b and 5 are in purple font because they seem to be definitions of “science” or attempts at definitions of “science”.  It might be useful to try to compare and contrast philosophy with science, and these two definitions might help one to make this comparison and contrast.
The remaining defintions in black font seem off target, but they touch on aspects of philosophy and so it would probably be useful to do some thinking about these definitions and how they relate to the idea of philosophy as an academic discipline.
We have already stumbled upon a couple of basic criteria for evaluation of a definition of “philosophy”:
C1.  The definition should be such that it excludes other established academic disciplines (e.g. history, psychology, mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics).
C2. The definition should be such that it excludes scientific investigation, and sheds light on the difference between philosophy and scientific investigation.
To be continued…

bookmark_borderHow Many Ways to Analyze the Word ‘God’ – Part 7

My last post on this subject (How Many Ways to Analyze the Word ‘God’ – Part 6) was from way back in February of 2011.
In that post I claimed that one can generate over 233 million definitions of ‘divine person’ from a set of just four attributes:
1. power
2. knowledge
3. freedom
4. goodness 
Since the word ‘God’ can be analyzed in relation to the phrase ‘divine person’, this means that one can generate over 233 million definitions of ‘God’.
Recently in looking over my previous analysis of how many definitions one can generate from a set of just four divine attributes, I noticed that my possible specifications concerning the degrees of strength of these attributes, were missing one possible specification, and that my possible specifications concerning degrees of  duration were also missing a few possible specifications. By recognizing these additional possible specifications of degrees of strength and duration, one can actually generate over 2 billion defintions of ‘divine person’ from just four attributes.

The word ‘God’ is a proper name, and, as Richard Swinburne suggests, the meaning of this name should be analyzed in terms of a definite description, a description which can be used to pick out a single individual person who is ‘God’, if theism is true. 
The definite description to be used for this purpose can in turn be based upon a definition of the phrase ‘divine person’. In Swinburne’s view, the definite description and the associated definition of ‘divine person’ are criterial in nature. That is to say, it is not required that each and every condition be satisfied in order for a being to count as a ‘divine person’ or as the divine person; the requirement, in terms of the ordinary use of the word ‘God’ is that “many” of the specified conditions be satisfied, and that no other being satisfy as many or more of the conditions as the candidate for being ‘God’.
Swinburne goes on to propose a tightening or narrowing of the meaning of the word ‘God’ for purposes of philosophical investigation. His narrowing of the meaning of the word ‘God’ amounts to taking the conditions that define the phrase ‘divine person’ as being necessary conditions, as opposed to being criteria. In other words, each and every one of the conditions in the definition of ‘divine person’ must be satisfied in order for something to count as a ‘divine person’ and to be picked out as the individual who is ‘God’.
One of the necessary conditions specified by Swinburne is that the being be ‘eternally omnipotent’. It is important to notice that this necessary condition, although put in terms of two words, actually represents three different components. The word ‘eternally’ specifies a duration of time through which the omnipotence must be possessed by the being in question. In Swinburne’s view, one can be queen for a day, but not God for a day. In order to be a ‘divine person’ one must be omnipotent not just for a day or a year or a decade, but one must have always been omnipotent and must always continue to be omnipotent. If there was ever a period of time when a person was not omnipotent (or will not be omnipotent), then that person is not a ‘divine person’, and thus is not ‘God’, according to Swinburne.
The concept of being ‘omnipotent’ actually contains two different types of specification: a general attribute (in this case: power – represented by the root word ‘potent’), and a degree of strength of that attribute (in this case: unlimited – represented by the prefix ‘omni-‘). So, the necessary condition of being ‘eternally omnipotent’ means possessing (1) an unlimited degree of strength of (2) the attribute of power for (3) an unlimited degree of duration.

There are three degrees of strength for the four attributes:
1. human
2. superhuman
3. unlimited
These three degrees of strength can be combined into seven different specifications of degrees of strength:
1. human
2. superhuman
3. unlimited
4. human or superhuman
5. human or unlimited
6. superhuman or unlimited
7. human or superhuman or unlimited
Swinburne’s view, for example, is that it is a necessary condition that a being possess an unlimited degree of power in order to be considered a ‘divine person’. More specifically, it is a necessary condition that a being possess an unlimited degree of power eternally in order to be considered a ‘divine person’. Possessing unlimited power for a day or a year does not satisfy this requirement. So, we need to take into consideration the additional specification of the duration that the attribute (of a specified strength) is possessed by the being in question.
In the context of attempts to define the concept of a ‘divine person’ we must include the possibility of infinite durations of time, not just finite durations. In addition to finite durations there are three different types of infinite duration, for a total of four degrees of duration:
1. finite
2. infinite past 
3. infinite future 
4. eternal 
Considering various possible combinations of degrees of duration, we can generate fifteen different specifications of degrees of duration:
1. finite
2. infinite past
3. infinite future
4. eternal
5. finite or infinite past
6. finite or infinite future
7. finite or eternal
8. infinite past or infinite future
9. infinite past or eternal
10. inifinite future or eternal
11. finite or infinite past or infinite future
12. finite or infinite past or eternal
13. finite or infinite future or eternal
14. infinite past or infinite future or eternal
15. finite or infinite past or infinite future or eternal
So, the basic components of a condition in a definition of ‘divine person’ are  (a) an attribute (4 possibilities), (b) a specification of degrees of strength (7 possibilities), and (c) a specification of degrees of duration (15 possibilities).
If we assume that power, knowledge, freedom, and goodness are relevant attributes for defining ‘divine person’ and that these are the only relevant attributes (a simplifying assumption), then definitions of ‘divine person’ will include four conditions containing a specification relating to each of the four attributes. For each attribute there are seven different specifications of degrees of strength and  fifteen different specifications of degrees of duration, which means there are 105 different possible specifications of strength and duration for each attribute (7 x 15 = 105).
So, if we focus in on just definitions composed of four necessary conditions (one condition for each of the four attributes), there will be 105 x 105 x 105 x 105 different such definitions that can be generated. That means, from just four divine attributes, we can generate 121,550,625 definitions composed of four necessary conditions.
If we start looking at criterial definitions and definitions involving a mixture of criteria and necessary conditions, then the numbers expand significantly:
A. Definitions composed of 4 necessary conditions: 121,550,625 (= 105 x 105 x 105 x 105).
B. Definitions composed of 4 criteria: 364,651,875  (= 3 x 121,550,625)
(3 conditions out of 4 satisfied, or 2 conditions out of 4 satisfied, or 1 condition out of 4 satisfied)
C. Definitions composed of 3 criteria and 1 necessary condition: 972,405,000 (= 8 x 121,550,625).
(4 basic definitions, because 4 options for selection of the necessary condition, and 2 variations of each basic definition, because can either require 2 of 3 criteria to be satisfied or 1 of 3 criteria to be satisfied.  So, a total of 8 definitions can be generated from each of the 121,550,625 combinations of specifications)
D. Definitions composed of 2 criteria and 2 necessary conditions: 729,303,750  (= 6 x 121,550,625)
(6 basic definitions – because 6 options for selection of 2 necessary conditions, and no variations on those basic definitions – because with just 2 criteria you can only require satisfaction of 1 out of the 2 criterial conditions).
E. Definitions composed of 1 criterion and 3 necessary conditions0 (You cannot have just one criterion in a definition; otherwise the “criterion” simply becomes a necessary condition, since you cannot require a lower number than one condition, because requiring 0 criteria to be satisfied would make that one criterion irrelevant, and requiring one criterion to be satisfied would mean that the one-and-only criterion would HAVE TO BE satisfied, in which case it would be a necessary condition, not a criterion.
Total: 2,187,911,250 definitions of ‘divine person’ can be generated from just four basic attributes (power, knowledge, freedom, and goodness), specified in relation to three degrees of strength (human, superhuman, unlimited) in relation to four degrees of duration (finite, infinite past, infinite future, eternal), in the case where all four attributes are treated as being relevant, and where we consider four different types of definitions (purely necessary conditions, purely criteria, three criteria plus one necessary condition, two criteria plus two necessary conditions).
Hundreds of millions more definitions can be created by using only a subset of the four attributes to construct definitions (e.g. creating definitions using only three of the four attributes).  Since the word ‘God’ can be analyzed or defined in relation to the phrase ‘divine person’, we can see that over two billion definitions of ‘God’ can be constructed from just four basic attributes.

bookmark_borderWhat is the Conclusion of the Kalam Cosmological Argument? – Part 5

In this post I will examine the presentation of the kalam cosmological argument (KCA) found in Chapter 23 of  Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (hereafter: PFCW) to see whether it supports my view that the conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS, as opposed to the less specific conclusion: THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE.

Philosophical Foundations of a Christian Worldview (by William Craig and J.P. Moreland, InterVarsity Press, 2003)

Chapter Title

KCA is the primary argument presented in Chapter 23, which is titled “The Existence of God I” (PFCW, p.463).  Because of the title of the chapter, one would expect that philosophical arguments presented in this chapter would be arguments for the existence of God, not arguments for the conclusion that the universe has a cause.  So, the title of Chapter 23 implies that the conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS.

Chapter Introduction

In the final sentence of the Introduction to Chapter 23, Craig & Moreland confirm what the focus of the chapter will be (emphasis added by me):

Specifically, in this and the succeeding chapter we shall explore the question of the existence of God. (PFCW, p.464)

Once again, since KCA is the primary argument presented in Chapter 23, this remark implies that KCA is understood by Craig and Moreland to be an argument for the existence of God, which means that the conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS.

Section Title
The presentation of KCA occurs in a section of Chapter 23 that is called “2 The Existence of God” (PFCW, p.464).   This is the third indication (in the first two pages of Chapter 23) that KCA is considered by Craig and Moreland to be an argument for the existence of God.
Opening Paragraph of Section
In the final sentence of the opening paragraph of the section “2 The Existence of God”, in which KCA is presented, Craig and Moreland describe the contents of Chapters 23 and 24 (emphasis added by me):
Alvin Plantinga…has defended what he calls “Two Dozen (or so) Arguments for God’s Existence.”  In the space of these chapters [Chapter 23 & 24] we shall examine four of the most important. (PFCW, p.465)
So, at just three pages into Chapter 23, we already have a fourth and very clear indication that the content of Chapter 23 will be a presentation of one or more “Arguments for God’s Existence”.  Since KCA is the primary argument presented in Chapter 23, and in the chapter section called “2 The Existence of God”, it is clear that Craig and Moreland believe that KCA is an argument for the existence of God, and thus that the conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS.
Subsection Title

The title of the subsection of Chapter 23 in which KCA is presented is: “2.1 The Cosmological Argument”.  Obviously, since “cosmological argument” is part of the name of KCA, and since KCA is presented in a subsection that is called “2.1 The Cosmological Argument”,  Craig and Moreland believe that KCA is a “cosmological argument”.  Do Craig and Moreland think that the “The Cosmological Argument” is an argument for the existence of God?  If so, then this would be a further confirmation that they view KCA as an argument for the existence of God.
In Chapter 24, Craig and Moreland present three arguments for the existence of God:  (1) the teleological argument (p.482-490),  (2) the axiological argument (p.490-496), and (3) the ontological argument (p.496-499).  As we saw earlier, Craig and Moreland state that they will cover FOUR arguments for the existence of God in Chapters 23 and 24 (see p.465).  Since they cover THREE arguments for the existence of God in Chapter 24, that means that they cover ONE argument for the existence of God in Chapter 23.  Based on the outline of Chapter 23, it is clear that the ONE argument for the existence of God covered in Chapter 23 is “The Cosmological Argument” (see outline on p.xvii):
1  Introduction
2 The Existence of God
…..2.1 The Cosmological Argument
……….2.1.1 Exposition of the Arguments
……….2.1.2 Evaluation of the Arguments
Chapter Summary
Checklist of Basic Terms and Concepts
Based on this outline of Chapter 23, it is clear that the focus of Chapter 23 is on “The Cosmological Argument”, and since the content of Chapter 23 consists of the presentation of ONE out of FOUR arguments for the existence of God, it is clear that Craig and Moreland take “The Cosmological Argument” to be an argument for the existence of God.   
Therefore, since Craig and Moreland take the cosmological argument to be an argument for the existence of God, and since the primary argument discussed in the subsection called “The Cosmological Argument” is KCA, this shows that KCA is viewed as a version of the cosmological argument, and thus is viewed by Craig and Moreland to be an argument for the existence of God.  This means that the conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS.
Initial Summary of KCA
When Craig and Moreland give an initial summary of KCA, it is possible to interpret the summary in such a way that they assert that the conclusion of KCA is something less than that GOD EXISTS (emphasis added by me):
It [KCA] aims to show that the universe had a beginning at some moment in the finite past and , since something cannot come from out of nothing, [the universe] must therefore have a transcendent cause, which brought the universe into being.    (PFCW, p.465)
The conclusion suggested in this initial summary is that the universe had a transcendent cause (or a transcendent cause brought the universe into being).  But note that this conclusion is more specific and more relevant than the conclusion THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE.  If the cause of the universe is inferred to be transcendent, then the cause of the universe is something rather unusual and beyond ordinary things and experiences, something like God.  So, although the explicitly stated conclusion here falls short of the conclusion GOD EXIST, it also goes beyond the very simple and general conclusion that THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE, and clearly leans in the direction of the conclusion GOD EXISTS.  Therefore, this brief summary statement rules out the view that the ultimate conclusion of KCA is THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE, but it leaves open the possiblity that the ultimate conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS.
Given that there have already been five indications that KCA is viewed by Craig and Moreland as an argument for the existence of God, the failure to explicitly state that the ultimate conclusion of KCA is that GOD EXISTS does NOT rule out this interpretation of KCA.  Given a choice between the alternative conclusions THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE and GOD EXISTS, the latter is clearly the more likely interpretation, based on the evidence we have reviewed so far.
The Thomist Cosmological Argument
Craig and Moreland discuss three versions of the cosmological argument:  (1) the Thomist version, (2) the Leibnizian verion, and (3) the kalam version.  They devote only one page to the Thomist version.  There is no standard-form argument (with numbered premises) for the Thomist version, but it is fairly clear that the ulimate conclusion of the Thomist version of the cosmological argument is that GOD EXISTS.  Consider the very last sentence of the short explication of this argument:
Thomas identifies this being [“the Ground of Being”] with the God whose name was revealed to Moses as “I am” (Ex. 3:14).  (PFCW, p.466)
In other words, IF the Ground of Being exists, THEN God exists, and the Ground of Being does exist, thus: God exists.  So,  although Craig and Moreland fail to explicitly state the conclusion of the Thomist cosmological argument, they clearly imply that the conclusion is: GOD EXISTS.  This supports my view, which is that although they also fail to explicitly state the conclusion of the kalam cosmological argument, they also clearly imply that the conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS.  This also supports the previous point that in the view of Craig and Moreland, the cosmological argument (i.e. each version of the cosmological argument) is an argument for the existence of God.
The Leibnizian Cosmological Argument
We see the same pattern in the presentation of the Leibnizian cosmological argument.  Craig and Moreland write only two pages on this version of the cosmological argument.  This time they do summarize it in a standard-form argument:
1. Every existing thing has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.
2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
3. The universe is an existing thing.
4. Therefore the explanation of the existence of the universe is God.  (PFCW, p.466)
The conclusion does not explicitly state that GOD EXISTS, but the argument clearly implies that GOD EXISTS, since in order for God to explain the existence of the universe, God must actually exist.  Furthermore, in the exposition of this argument on the following page, Craig and Moreland do state the conclusion explicitly (emphasis added by me):
Since, as premise (3) [of the Leibnizian cosmological argument] states, the universe is obviously an existing thing…, it follows that God exists.  (PFCW, p.467)
So, although the ultimate conclusion of the Leibnizian cosmological argument is clearly that GOD EXISTS, the conclusion of the standard-form summary of this argument does NOT explicitly state the conclusion to be that GOD EXISTS.  This supports my view of their understanding of the kalam cosmological argument.  First, this provides additional confirmation that Craig and Moreland view the cosmological argument (i.e. each version of cosmological argument) as being an argument for the existence of God.  
Second, although the standard-form argument summarizing the Leibnizian cosmological argument does not explicitly state the conlusion to be that GOD EXISTS, it is clear that the ultimate conclusion of this cosmological argument is that GOD EXISTS.  Thus, this provides support for my view that although Craig and Moreland do not provide a standard-form summary argument for KCA in which the conclusion explicitly states that GOD EXISTS, it might still be the case that they believe that the ultimate conclusion of KCA is that GOD EXISTS.
Both the Thomist and Leibnizian versions of cosmological argument are clearly arguments for the existence of God, even though Craig and Moreland fail to explicitly state the ultimate conclusion that GOD EXISTS in summaries of these arguments.
The Kalam Cosmological Argument
Craig and Moreland devote a dozen pages to their discussion of KCA. Clearly, they believe this to be the best and most important version of the cosmological argument, and thus the best cosmological argument for the existence of God, since that is the whole point of discussion the cosmological argument as one of four of the most important types of argument for the existence of God (PFCW, p.465).
In the very first paragraph of this twelve-page exposition on KCA, Craig and Moreland describe the argument this way:
Thus the kalam argument…constitutes an independent argument for a transcendent Creator…   (PFCW, p.468)
Craig and Moreland clearly view the conclusion of KCA to be something more specific than just the general claim that THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE.  They believe that KCA shows the existence of “a transcendent Creator”.  “Transcendent” suggests or implies supernatural, and “Creator” implies an intelligent person.  Clearly, the concept of  “a transcendent Creator” is getting very close to the idea of “God”.   So, we can see that if KCA can show that “a transcendent Creator” exists, then KCA might well be used as an argument for the conclusion that GOD EXISTS.
Craig and Moreland provide a standard-form summary argument for KCA:
1.  Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.  (PFCW, p. 468)
One could point to this summary of KCA, and argue that the ultimate conclusion of KCA is that THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE, since that is the explicitly-stated conclusion of this standard-form summary argument.  However, we have already seen a great deal of evidence indicating that the ultimate conclusion of the cosmological argument (i.e. of each version of cosmological argument) is that GOD EXISTS.
Furthermore, we have seen that Craig and Moreland do in fact view the ultimate conclusion of the Thomist and Leibnizian versions of the cosmological argument to be that GOD EXISTS, even though they fail to explicitly state this conclusion in summaries of those two versions of the cosmological argument.  Thus, we have good reason to doubt that the conclusion (3) is the ultimate conclusion of KCA.
Furthermore, the sentence that immediately follows the above summary argument, implies that there is more to KCA than what is contained in the summary argument (emphasis added by me):
Conceptual analysis of what it means to be a cause of the universe then aims to establish some of the theologically significant properties of this being. (PFCW, p.468)
In other words, additional reasoning is required to get from the general sub-conclusion stated in (3) to the ultimate conclusion: GOD EXISTS.
 Closing Two Paragraphs on KCA
If the ultimate conclusion of KCA was that THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE, then we would expect the discussion of KCA to come to an end once that conclusion had been reached.  But the discussion of KCA in Chapter 23 continues for two paragraphs after reaching that conclusion, and the second paragraph is a long one, taking up about one half of a page (and the pages are of substantial length in this book).  Recall that the entire discussion of the Thomist cosmological argument took up only one single page.  The combination of the final two paragraphs on KCA is about 3/4 of a page, so this additional discussion after the conclusion is reached that THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE, is clearly of significance.
In the first of the two closing paragraphs on KCA, several characteristics of “the cause” of the universe are inferred:
Conceptual analysis enables us to recover a number of striking properties that must be possessed by such an ultramundane being.  For as the cause of space and time, this entity must transcend space and time and therefore exist atemporally and nonspatially, at least without the universe.  This transcendent cause must therefore be changlesss and immaterial, since timelessness entails changelessness, and changlessness implies immateriality.  Such a cause must be beginningless and uncaused,  at least in the sense of lacking any antecedent causal conditions.  Ockham’s razor will shave away  further causes, since we should not multiply causes beyond necessity.  This entity must be unimaginably powerful, since it created the universe without any material cause.  (PFCW, p.479)
All of this reasoning is based on the prior conclusion that THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE.  Clearly, this reasoning gets us much closer to the view that God created the universe, and thus to the conclusion that GOD EXISTS.
The second and final paragraph on KCA continues with further reasoning about “the cause” of the universe (emphasis added by me):
Finally, and most remarkably, such a transcendent cause is plausibly taken to be personal.  Three reasons can be given for this conclusion. … (PFCW, p.479)
Near the end of the final paragraph on KCA we read the following statement:
Thus we are brought, not merely to a transcendent cause of the universe, but to its Personal Creator.  (PFCW, p.480)
So, clearly the conclusion of KCA is at least that THERE EXISTS A TRANSCENDENT PERSONAL CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE,  which is much more specific than the simple conclusion that THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE.  Furthermore, it is easy to see how the conclusion that there is a TRANSCENDENT (i.e. timeless, changeless, immaterial, and unimaginably powerful) PERSONAL (i.e. an intelligent person) CREATOR (i.e. who designed and created the universe), would be the basis for a further inference to the conclusion that GOD EXISTS.  Thus, it is clear that the ultimate conclusion of KCA is NOT that THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE, but rather that GOD EXISTS.
In summary, the Chapter title, the section title, and the subsection title all support my view that the conclusion of KCA is that GOD EXISTS.  Furthermore, the introduction of the chapter, the opening paragraph of the section “2 The Existence of God”, and the expositions of both the Thomist and Leibnizian versions of the cosmological argument, support my view that the conclusion of KCA is that GOD EXISTS.  Finally, the lengthy discussion of KCA, including the opening paragraph, the initial description of KCA, and the final closing paragraphs about KCA, all support my view that the ultimate conclusion of KCA is that GOD EXISTS.

If Chapter 23 of  Philosophical Foundations of a Christian Worldview was our ONLY source of information about KCA, then we would quite reasonably infer that the ultimate conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS, and that the claim that THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE is only an intermediate conclusion on the path towards the ultimate conclusion of KCA.


bookmark_borderDoes the Brain Construct Reality?

PBS is hosting a series on the brain, appropriately titled The Brain hosted by Rice University Neuroscientist David Eagleman. I watched the first episode last week and found it highly informative and entertaining. People have wondered what scientific achievements of the 21st Century could rival those of the 20th Century—relativity theory, quantum physics, DNA and molecular biology, and big bang cosmology. My guess is that this century will be the Century of the Brain, that is, we will finally gain an understanding of the brain that is both detailed and comprehensive, reductionistic and integrative. The brain revolution will not only be a revolution in science, but a revolution in thought and culture, even challenging our very self-image. We will finally collectively have to come to terms with Daniel Dennett’s statement that, yes, we do indeed have a soul, but that the soul is composed of a hundred billion tiny robots, (neurons). Put another way, the brain revolution will be the completion of the Darwinian revolution, finally and fully incorporating even consciousness into the biological world.
Stupendous progress has already been made, and The Brain seems to be an enjoyable primer. However, philosophers have the role of language nannies, and there is some inexcusable looseness in the way that Eagleman expresses his insights. Of course, this is a popular program, and you do not expect the rigor of a professional journal. However, precisely because it is a presentation intended for public consumption, it is important that the language not convey impressions that mislead and perhaps undermine the whole project. For instance, in the first episode Eagleman repeatedly said that the brain constructs reality. We automatically think that the world is as we see it, says Eagleman, but, in fact, the world is constructed by our brains.
I hope that he did not mean this entirely literally, and that it was exaggeration for rhetorical or pedagogical effect. Taken straightforwardly, saying that the brain constructs the world would seem to imply, for instance, that there are no cats. Rather, all of our perceptions of cats are created ex nihilo and in their entirety by the brain. There are no feline entities “out there” to be recognized and perceived by the brain. Rather, feline reality, like all other reality, is purely and simply a construct of the brain. In other words, when Eagleman says these things he sounds like the neuroscientific equivalent of Bishop Berkeley. There is no external, objective world of subsistent entities that we confront in our cognitive/perceptual activities; such a “world” is an internal creation. Further, Berkeley retained a degree of objectivity by positing God as the being whose activity maintained the tree in the quad even when no one was looking. But if the brain creates reality, we seem to be left with a forlorn solipsism that is as bad as a brain in a vat and does not even have a vat.
I take it for granted, then, that Eagleman, as he seemed to indicate on other occasions, did not mean to say that the world is literally constructed by our brains. What, then, did he mean? Galileo distinguished between primary and secondary qualities and Locke gave the most famous statement of that distinction. Colors, and the entire world of qualia, are, of course, created by the brain in response to information from the external world. Physics knows nothing of “red” except as a roundabout way of referring to light within a certain range of wavelengths. On the other hand, when I perceive a car as being bigger than a breadbox, I seem to be perceiving something as it is in that sense. Is the talk about the world being constructed just a hyperbolic statement of the familiar primary/secondary quality distinction? Whatever he meant, clarity is a virtue even in popular programming.
Eagleman also talked about the differences between individual brains. He said that brains are as different and unique as snowflakes. Many will presumably take comfort in finding that their brains are different from Donald Trump’s. He also talked about how individual brains “construct” reality differently. He spoke about those who experience synesthesia as “constructing” the world differently from others. Of course, there are many profound differences of perception, and, as the late, great Oliver Sacks showed in his many books, disease or damage can cause remarkable and sometimes disturbing changes in how individuals perceive.
Again, though, it is surely an overstatement to say that we each construct reality differently. We interact successfully in many complex ways and carry out many different coordinated tasks, and it would be very hard to understand how we could unless we shared experiences. We all enter the stadium by the gates, but if everyone were constructing his or her own reality we would expect many to construct a brick wall or a sheer precipice or a charging bull instead of a gate, and chaos would be expected. That we communicate semi-successfully with language seems impossible unless there were a shared basis of experience. As Hume observed long ago, our successful practical references to “this house” or “that table” seem to presuppose shared experiences of things like houses and tables. Wittgenstein put it even more strongly when he insisted that there could not be a private language. But if each individual brain constructs its own private experience, then must it not also be inventing and applying a private language?
Recent discussions here at SO have bemoaned the failure of some popular scientific authors to make distinctions or address points that are basic for philosophers. Sounds like the same thing applies to popular programming about neuroscience.