Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Former Porn Star Brittni Ruiz (aka Jenna Presley) Finds God

She was known as the "World's Hottest Porn Star." 

"It's been a long seven-year journey of porn, prostitution, stripping, drugs, alcohol and several failed suicide attempts."

Hear Brittni Ruiz (stage name: Jenna Presley) share how God encountered her and transformed her life. 

"…Thank you Jesus. I found him, I'm home!"

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Is Morality Objective?

gavelMartin Luther King Jr. said, “The first principle of value that we need to rediscover is this: that all reality hinges on moral foundations. In other words, that this is a moral universe, and that there are moral laws of the universe just as abiding as the physical laws.(1)” He helped build the Civil Rights movement upon these moral laws: whites are not superior to blacks and discrimination based upon skin color is wrong. Dr. King believed that morality was objective: it was wrong to oppress non-whites regardless of both the government’s position on the issue and the opinion of millions of Americans. 

Now, most of us agree with Dr. King about the equal treatment of human beings. That goes without saying. But committing to the idea of objective morality? That's another story. I'd like to argue that we all believe morality is objective, even if we don't think we do. To say that morality is objective is to say that there are some moral facts about the world. Facts, by definition, are true regardless of whether or not people agree with them. An action can be wrong even if those who perform that action believe it to be right. Let’s start with this question: Are there any facts, at all? Certainly!

  • 2+2=4
  • 1+1=2
  • 7 is greater in quantity than 4

  • In a right triangle, the square of the 1st leg plus the square of the 2nd leg is equal to the square of the hypotenuse: a^2 + b^2 = c^2\!\,
  • A square has 4 equal sides and 4 right angles.

  • X cannot be non-X at the same time and in the same sense (Law of Non-Contradiction).
  • A ball cannot be both green all over and red all over.
  • A bachelor is unmarried.

It’s clear that there are facts. Facts are objectively true, by definition. Their truth does not depend on our agreement with them. People disagree with facts all the time. I live in NYC. We have no shortage of crazy people on the subway claiming that the human race is being subtly infiltrated by aliens, or that the moon is actually a giant WMD put in place by the Russian government. Do their wacky theories nullify the fact that the moon is a real, cosmic entity? Of course not. Facts are facts. They are judgment-independent. Now, the next question to ask is whether or not there are moral facts. It seems that the answer is, yes. 

There are some moral facts that hold true regardless of whether or not we agree with them. Let’s take this, for example:

Philosopher Michael Ruse says, “The man who says that it is morally acceptable to rape little children is just as mistaken as the man who says, 2+2=5."(2)

Is it wrong to rape children? If the answer is ‘Yes’, then morality is objective because 'wrongness' can only be determined when measured against some independent standard. Saying that child rape is a moral act is not the same as saying that vanilla is a tasty flavor of ice cream. Choosing vanilla over rocky-road is a matter of preference whereas the issue of child rape is a matter of 'rightness' and 'wrongness.' But in order for there to be 'rightness' and 'wrongness,' there needs to be an objective standard. This means that the child rapist is wrong, even though he may sincerely believe that he is right. Because morality is objective, we are justified in saying that the child rapist is wrong. If morality is not objective, then there is no basis for labeling actions as wrong (or right). At most, even the worst behaviors could only be considered socially disadvantageous or acting out of fashion.

What evidence is there for objective morality?

I believe that the best evidence for objective morality comes from our moral experience. We know that raping children is wrong. It’s not just socially inconvenient or out of fashion, it is really wrong. How do we know? In the same way we know all metaphysical truths: We just know.

1. We know that the external world is real.
We are not in a matrix, we are not all in a dream, and we are not brains in a vat being stimulated by a crazy scientist creating the illusion of our external world.

2. We know that the past is real.
The world was not created 2 minutes ago and given the appearance of billions of years of age. I was not created 30 seconds ago and implanted with 21 years’ worth of memories.

These truths are unlearned and self-evident. We cannot test them. They simply exist. And the same goes with moral facts. There is no scientific evidence for the truth of the statement “Raping children is wrong,” but it is true, nonetheless. We are justified in trusting our moral experience in the absence of contrary evidence. Why should we distrust our moral intuition if there is no evidence to the contrary? And if we choose to distrust our intuition with regard to morality, then what makes us think that our intuition about these other metaphysical truths is correct?

Maybe we are living in the matrix. Who knows?

1. Martin Luther King Jr. in Peter Holloran, A Knock at Midnight: Inspiration from the Great Sermons of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. (New York: Warner Books, 2000), p. 10.
2. Michael Ruse, Darwinism Defended (London: Addison-Wesley, 1982), p. 275.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Robot Rape?

Kenji was part of an experiment involving several robots loaded with custom software designed to let them react emotionally to external stimuli. After some limited environmental conditioning, Kenji first demonstrated love by bonding with a a stuffed doll in his enclosure, which he would embrace for hours at a time. He would then make simple, but insistent, inquiries about the doll if it were out of sight. Researchers attributed this behavior to his programmed qualities of devotion and empathy and called the experiment a success... 
The trouble all started when a young female intern began to spend several hours each day with Kenji, testing his systems and loading new software routines. When it came time to leave one evening, however, Kenji refused to let her out of his lab enclosure and used his bulky mechanical body to block her exit and hug her repeatedly. The intern was only able to escape after she had frantically phoned two senior staff members to come and temporarily de-activate Kenji.... 
Dr. Takahashi admits that they will more than likely have to decommission Kenji permanently, but he’s optimistic about one day succeeding where Kenji failed.
 “This is only a minor setback. I have full faith that we will one day live side by side with, and eventually love and be loved by, robots,” he said.
Read the rest of the article here
Think about this for a second. Suppose the robot had assaulted the woman. 
Could we put it on trial? 
Could we hold it morally responsible for its actions? 
Should we be shocked at what it did? 
Nope. Robots don't have control over what they do. They simply carry out the functions that they were programmed to do--be they for good or for ill. You have good robots like C3PO and then you have robots like Kenji. But at bottom, there is no difference. They are simply doing what they were programmed to do. They have no control--no choice. 
If Naturalism is true, then we are like these robots. We have no ability to pick our actions. We simply "dance to our DNA", as Richard Dawkins says. And every event is the product of particles set in motion from the start of the universe! That means we have no free will, no moral responsibility for immoral actions, and no morality, at all. 
Scary thought.  

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Does Evolution Undermine Morality?

Evolution has shaped our evaluative judgments to the point that we are not justified in believing that there really are mind-independent moral facts. The atheist might respond and say that it was evolutionarily beneficial for humans to detect moral truths--our ability to grasp truth has aided us in our survival.

"According to the tracking account, making certain evaluative judgments rather than others promoted reproductive success because these judgments were true. But let's now look at this. How exactly is this supposed to work? Exactly why would it promote an organism's reproductive success to grasp the independent evaluative truths posited by the realist? The realist owes us an explanation here. It is not enough to say, "Because they are true."...Consider truths about a creature's manifest surroundings--for example, that there is a fire ranging in front of it, or a predator rushing toward it. It is perfectly clear why it tends to promote reproductive success for a creature to grasp such truths: the fire might burn it to a crisp; the predator might eat it up. But there are many other kinds of truths such that it will confer either no advantage or even a disadvantage for a given creature to be able to grasp them." 
-Sharon Street 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Did Jesus Exist?

Some skeptics, who argue for the use of scholarship, reason, and research in our endeavor to determine truth, like to make radical claims that fly in the face of all scholarship, reason, and research. One such claim is that Jesus never existed.

In this video, an atheist radio host interviews New Testament historian Bart Ehrman (liberal agnostic) and thinks he has an ally in his "Jesus myth" nonsense. Well, he has another thing comin'.

The Kalam Cosmological Argument

Philosophers have offered several versions of the "Cosmological Argument" for God's existence. These arguments attempt to move from the existence of the universe (or from some fact about the universe as a whole) to a cause of the universe. One popular version is called the "Kalam Cosmological Argument," championed in recent years by William Lane Craig. The Kalam Cosmological Argument typically proceeds in two steps. First, a case is made for a cause of the universe:

1. Whatever begins to exist must have a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe must have a cause.

Second, it is argued that the cause of the universe must have attributes that are typically ascribed to God (e.g., timelessness, immateriality, etc.).

Here's a short video explaining the Kalam Cosmological Argument.