Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What Is the Argument from Reason?


The Argument from Reason is a collection of arguments that attempt to move from some fact about human reason to some claim about worldviews. Since human beings use our reasoning ability regularly, it is all too easy to ignore (a) the metaphysical implications of reliable cognitive faculties, and (b) the skeptical implications of an atheistic worldview.

Consider the following (admittedly oversimplified) argument.

  1. Human beings have the ability to reason about ourselves, the world, and God.
  2. We treat our reasoning ability as generally reliable.
  3. If Naturalism is true, our beliefs must be the result of physical processes in our brain.
  4. But if our beliefs (both true and false beliefs) are the result of physical processes, they are governed by laws of nature, which are incapable of reasoning or of preferring true beliefs to false beliefs.
  5. Hence, on Naturalism, human reasoning ability is not generally reliable (because it is grounded in natural objects, processes, and laws that have no concern for truth).
  6. Hence, if I affirm Naturalism, I cast significant doubt on my beliefs, including my belief in Naturalism.

The only way out of this conundrum for naturalists is to claim that, in the Darwinian struggle for survival, reliable cognitive faculties conferred a selection advantage on certain organisms, and that organisms with generally reliable belief-forming faculties had an advantage over organisms with less reliable faculties.

But this response fails for a number of reasons. Consider, for instance, another version of the Argument from Reason.

  1. Natural selection does not favor truth. It favors traits that help organisms survive and reproduce.
  2. False beliefs are often just as effective (or even more effective) than true beliefs.
  3. Hence, in the struggle for survival, cognitive faculties that produced false beliefs would have been selected whenever the resulting behavior was beneficial.
  4. Hence, if Naturalism is true, human reasoning ability is fundamentally unreliable, for it is the product of a selection process that doesn’t favor truth over falsehood.
  5. Hence, if I affirm Naturalism, I cast significant doubt on my beliefs, including my belief in Naturalism.

Apart from defeating Naturalism, the Argument from Reason may also be used to support Mind-Body Dualism (by showing that reason must include something non-physical) and Theism (via a version of the Design Argument).

For more information on the Argument from Reason, see (in this order, if possible):

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Magician's Twin: C.S. Lewis and the Case against Scientism

More than a half century ago, famed writer C.S. Lewis warned about how science (a good thing) could be twisted in order to attack religion, undermine ethics, and limit human freedom. In this documentary, "The Magician's Twin: C.S. Lewis and the Case Against Scientism," leading scholars explore Lewis's prophetic warnings about the abuse of science and how Lewis's concerns are increasingly relevant for us today.

Monday, October 22, 2012

New Site Under Construction

Greetings! The old Acts 17 site was a Flash site, and I didn't know how to keep it updated. I'm in the process of switching everything over to Google Blogger (which I know how to use), but I'm busy working on several projects, so it might take a while to get things running. Please check back soon!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Deliver Us from Dawkins

Just what the world needed. More complaining about imaginary persecution. Thanks Richard.

THE GUARDIAN--Richard Dawkins wants America's atheists to stand up and be counted. He wants them to form a lobby that's capable of challenging the religious culture they inhabit. He says that about 10% of the nation is atheist - if these godless millions unite, then they can begin to influence national politics. Dawkins has even tried to start the ball rolling, by launching a movement called the Out Campaign.

The name echoes the gay rights movement, of course, and so does Dawkins' rhetoric: he talks of coaxing the nervous atheists out of the closet. The implication is that atheists are at present victims of discrimination. Dawkins cites the evidence of his postbag: he has received letters from atheists who are scared to come out, he says. Some fear the anger of families, others fear that they will be fired.

He offers another comparison:

"When you think about how fantastically successful the Jewish lobby has been, though, in fact, they are less numerous, I am told - religious Jews anyway - than atheists and [yet they] more or less monopolise American foreign policy as far as many people can see. So if atheists could achieve a small fraction of that influence, the world would be a better place."

The comparison of American atheists to both homosexuals and Jews is very interesting. It is tantamount to crying: "Let's seek influence through posing as a victimised minority!" How Nietzsche would smile at the sight of a man so blatantly trying to foster a sense of resentment. American atheists "have been downtrodden for a very long time" he says, "so I think some sort of political organisation is what they need."

What is it that Dawkins actually wants? On one level the gay rights analogy gives the answer: he wants an end to discrimination against this minority. Apparently Americans distrust atheists more than any other minority group, including homosexuals, recent immigrants, or Muslims. He wants a cultural change, in which atheism becomes seen as a perfectly respectable viewpoint.

But the gay rights analogy is actually less relevant than the Jewish one. The truth is that Dawkins does not want equal rights; he wants what he says that the Jewish lobby has: disproportionate influence. If atheists had more political power, "the world would be a better place". He wants the gospel of atheism to spread; he wants it to change the culture. (Continue Reading.)