Thursday, June 30, 2011

Helping @dreamspeak with consistency

Here I'd like to review a tweetversation I've been having with @dreamspeak.
It all began when someone else referenced #atheisthotline about how evil a position I hold is, or something, and I said:
@Rhology also challenges #atheisthotline to demonstrate that ANYthing is objectively morally wrong.

@dreamspeak then jumped in and asked why anyone would need to do that. What emerged from what followed was that this individual believes that our morality should be based on empathy that people have for each other. I have of course dealt with this at length beforehand, and I linked him to that article, but surprise surprise, he doesn't appear to have read it.
I proceeded to perform a reductio ad absurdum on his assertion:

Rhology: @mysickbones Empathy-I prefer pain myself so figure others like pain too. @dreamspeak bases morality on empathy. Ergo infliction of pain=OK

dreamspeak: @Rhology You are a moron. You keep assuming that an individual is what defines morality. It is a collective bargain, agreement in society.

Rhology: @dreamspeak It is a collective bargain, agreement in society>>How do you know?

dreamspeak: @Rhology I read studies of human behavior. Professional scientific analysis of sociology, psychology, even animal behavior for comparison.

Now, let's stop for a moment to take stock.
He didn't answer the question, first of all.  Also, he conveniently forgets that societies are composed of individuals. And "studies of human behavior" are just that - compilations of studies of individuals. Also, as I pointed out to him, this is an is, not an ought. What ought follows from this is?

dreamspeak: Seems @Rhology's primary problem is that what he thinks is empathy, is actually called "projecting."

Rhology: @dreamspeak's primary problem is that what he thinks is empathy, is actually called "what I like". As if everyone is always like him.

Rhology: @dreamspeak How do you get from "X behaved thusly and thought thusly about it" to "X's behavior was morally unjustified"?

dreamspeak @Rhology I don't know how to explain it to you in a way that will breach your thick skull. You keep returning to this because you're stuck.

dreamspeak @Rhology Empathy will never be "what I like" no matter how many times you insist that it is, and I've never used it to mean that.

dreamspeak @Rhology If you could be less stupid for a moment and think about what "empathy" means you would see that it informs how we treat others.

dreamspeak @Rhology The majority of humanity does not enjoy suffering, and through empathy can "get" what it means to inflict it, & want to lessen it.

Note here how he just two tweets ago denied that empathy reduces to "what I like" and then here says that "the majority of humanity does not enjoy suffering".  So it sure seems to me that he has gone back on what he said earlier, seemingly without realising it.
If you don't enjoy suffering, and that's your argument for why one shouldn't do something, then no matter how many times you deny it, it does come down to what you like and what you dislike.
His lame point about "projecting" is precisely what he is guilty of. When one empathises with someone else, one is attempting to understand an experience. @dreamspeak is telling us to ask ourselves whether we enjoy pain. He assumes most will say, "No, I don't like pain." He'll then go on to say, "OK, so don't inflict pain."
But what if someone does enjoy pain? Then the answer would be, "Yes, I do like pain." If @dreamspeak is to be consistent, he should answer "OK, so inflict pain," b/c he wants us to act on our empathy.
This is what he has not grasped.

If he objects that most people don't like pain, he is moving the goalposts, b/c he was telling us that empathy is the basis, and now he wants us to listen to the majority. This is nothing more than might making right, morality by popularity. The obvious question is whether @dreamspeak is willing to say that about 1940s-era Jews in Germany, France, and Poland. The majority thought they were better off dead or in labor camps. Guess it was the right thing to do.
Thus he shows that he doesn't really think that empathy is the basis for morality. He thinks that thinking like he thinks is the basis.  But he hasn't scanned and uploaded his Pope of Morality ID badge yet.

dreamspeak: @Rhology If you can't even understand what it means to imagine someone else's suffering then you can't get past this part.

dreamspeak @Rhology So you can stop acting like you're making any kind of sensible point here. You're not. People are reasonable & empathetic creatures

Some people are reasonable, sometimes.  Most people are at least some of the time. Nobody is reasonable all the time. Further, he is living in a fantasy realm filled with unicorns and butterflies.  "People are empathetic creatures"?  Without qualification? 
There are sociopaths out there, @dreamspeak. Are they "empathetic" (by which he means, of course, "people who think like I think")? Murderers, pædophiles, thieves, addicts, rapists... all of those are out there.  Do they consult their empathy before committing what some of us consider to be criminal acts?
And what if they grew to outnumber the "good, reasonable, empathetic" people?  Since might makes right, I suppose morality would change, wouldn't it?

As the ironically-named @PlzThinkHarder said to me: yesterday it was immoral for a woman to speak out of turn. Today it is not. Tomorrow could hold anything. It's human nature.

I just swap in different objects and my point is made.  
Yesterday it was immoral to commit genocide. Today it is not. Tomorrow could hold anything. It's human nature.
Yesterday it was immoral to rape little girls. Today it is not. Tomorrow could hold anything. It's human nature.
Yesterday it was immoral to hunt down and kill all atheists. Today it is not. Tomorrow could hold anything. It's human nature.
Yesterday it was immoral to enslave all non-Christians. Today it is not. Tomorrow could hold anything. It's human nature.

What answer does an atheistic outlook have to any of this?

Now, if this is your first time seeing this kind of argument, or if you need a reminder, please know that I do not actually hold any of these conclusions. They are consistent with an atheistic, naturalistic outlook, but I am not an atheistic naturalist.  I am a biblical Christian.
B/c God has spoken and has authority, I know that these things are objectively evil. But how can the atheist know any of that? There is no authority, no normative standard.  Who says that we must obey or consider our empathy when weighing moral options? Why should we?  Who is @dreamspeak to tell us to do that?  If we disobey, will he punish us? If he had the power, would he enforce such?  What authority does he have? 

Hopefully he'll stop by to let us all know who crowned him Pope.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

In San Francisco

There are those who want to ban the severing of male newborn babies' foreskin and who heartily endorse the permissibility of severing the same babies' heads 5 minutes before.

Gospel versus emotional Lutheranism

Over at Beggars All, I'm discussing a bit with one Brigitte, who is a conservative Lutheran. She is apparently of the persuasion that Baptism is Gospel. "God is favorably disposed towards you." 
I beg to differ, to be sure. I paste here our conversation so far.

All my children and god-children learned to sing this short verse from little up: "I was baptized happy day. All my sins were washed away. God looked down on me and smiled. I became his own dear child." Which is a proclamation of good news to each every time. Romans 1:16. This is most certainly true.

Unless of course they aren't believers, in which case their sins are very much on them. And that song becomes a terrible curse.

What a wonderful thing to tell little children in your care about Jesus.

Tbh, I'd prefer just to tell them the Law and the Gospel. Not false hope.

Baptism is Gospel. "God is favorably disposed towards you." Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them. It is so simple. How shall they believe if they have not heard.

Gospel is Gospel. Baptism is baptism. It honestly really scares me when people talk like you're talking.

Baptism does not communicate that God is favorably disposed toward anyone. Regeneration does. They are not the same, and one can be present without the other.

Rhology, this is a very important question. Is what I say scary or what you say scary? And does God want you to trust him or not?

He does want you to trust him and this is the most important thing in the world. He is our good Father in heaven. Baptism is one more way he tells us. A pledge and promise and seal to his word. It would be immeasurably wrong to doubt him.

What is the worst thing that could happen if someone believed that God is favorably disposed to them? They might believe.

What you say is scary, because you're equating something one does (baptism) with the Gospel. Doesn't get a whole lot scarier than that.

Yes, God wants me to trust Him. The regenerate man can trust Him to bring him safely to glory. The unregenerate man needs the Law and the Gospel, not false talk about how baptism did something for him.

Baptism is one way He tells US, yes, but not the unregenerate. So the focus needs to be on the SOUL, not the BAPTISM.

No, the worst thing that could happen to someone falsely believing that God is favorably disposed toward them is that they may well go to Hell and be sorta surprised when they get there. Kind of like a huge horde of "good people" Americans. Preach the Gospel to your godchildren! Not baptism; baptism is for later.

Rhology, can you tell me how you would word the Gospel, as not to mislead anyone into believing that God is favorably disposed toward them when he is really proposing to damn them? What would you actually say to them?

And what would you tell them about their baptism, past or future? What would you actually say? How is anyone supposed to believe that God is good? How would you inculcate this message? How would you teach a child that God is their dear Father in heaven of whom they should ask all things that they need?

can you tell me how you would word the Gospel, as not to mislead anyone into believing that God is favorably disposed toward them when he is really proposing to damn them?

Strictly speaking, the Gospel isn't exactly that which is the persuasive power pertaining to God being DISfavorably disposed to the unregenerate - that's the Law.
So I share the Law AND the Gospel, the Law being a measurement of the person up against the 2 greatest commandments and getting into specific outgrowths thereof, and the Gospel being 1 Cor 15:
3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; 7then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; 8and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.

The "died for our sins" is very important and usually needs to be unpacked so that it's not misunderstood. That means that Jesus took the punishment you deserve b/c of your sin. It means He gives you His righteousness, by virtue of His sinless birth and sinless life and His divine nature. It means God sees you as He sees Jesus, that you're clothed in an alien righteousness. And by virtue of His rising from the dead, He grants eternal life.
All this is obtained by repentance and faith. Adding any work to it (circumcision, baptism, penance, Mass) empties it of its power and results in trust in something other than Christ alone for salvation from sin and death.

what would you tell them about their baptism, past or future?

I suspect I may differ with my Presbyterian brethren here, so with that understood, I'd tell them that any past baptism was performed on an enemy of God and that disciples of Jesus need to be baptised. It's not optional; true believers get baptised.
It's the same thing Jesus said in Matthew 28:19-20 - go into all the world and make disciples, baptising them. When I meet a disciple or someone gets saved (thus becoming a Christian and becoming a ready-to-be-discipled disciple), I tell them that pretty much the 1st step of obedience to Jesus is baptism. After all, Jesus didn't say "go into all the world and baptise people and then pray that they become disciples later on".

How is anyone supposed to believe that God is good?

I'm sorry, but I think there is some disconnect here, or perhaps you're really really emotionally involved in this baptism question.
You really think it's in question how a Reformed Baptist would be able to consistently tell someone how God is good? Creation, the giving of Jesus Christ, His death on the cross, eternal life offered as a free gift, the Holy Spirit' indwelling, none of that has any bearing on whether God is good if it's not true that we can tell children that God is favorably disposed to them b/c they were dipped in water as babies? Really?

How would you teach a child that God is their dear Father in heaven of whom they should ask all things that they need?

I know for certain that giving them false assurance that getting dipped in water as a baby somehow nullifies the fact that they were born into sin and the Fall and that they actively live as active enemies of God.
What I *would* teach them (and indeed, what I *do* teach my kids) is that Jesus died for sin, the just for the unjust, in order to bring us to God. That they are sinners. That Jesus will forgive and give eternal life and that they must trust Him alone for such.

How is your formula superior to this, the pure and unmixed Gospel?

Monday, June 06, 2011

Modern day abolitionists

The Abolitionist Society of Oklahoma is a young organisation composed mostly of young people who, following in the footsteps of the slave-trade and slavery abolitionists of the 18th and 19th centuries like William Wilberforce, John Jay, and John Newton, seek to effect the total abolition of the most egregious of human rights violations that is currently occurring in the world.
We applaud those men and women who fought misinformation with truth and self-serving deception with honest, forthright, and reasonable argumentation and seek to emulate their approach in abolishing human abortion.

We strive to discuss the issues surrounding the topic of human abortion at the highest philosophical, scientific, and theological level, while full-heartedly and unabashedly acknowledging the fact that our principal motivations are theological and evangelical (ie, Gospel-based).
Yet we also seek to meet the needs of women facing unwanted/unplanned pregnancies with spiritual, emotional, financial, and medical assistance.
To that second end, we put together and hosted our first-ever Yard Sale for Heroic Women this past Saturday. Many families contributed stuff to sell, expecting nothing in return (not even a tax write-off), for the purpose of accumulating funds to assist heroic women - those who have faced especially financial difficulties and oftentimes pressure from others like boyfriends/baby daddies to put their child to death, yet decided to keep, love, and raise that child.

The response from the community was overwhelmingly positive. Our motivations and name were on full display, and it engendered virtually nothing but support, smiles, and thanksgiving on the part of patrons. One person bought a $5 item with a $100 bill and told us to keep the change, and others did similar.

You may read more about it at the Red Dirt Report; Andrew Griffin, the Red Dirt Reporter, was kind enough to write up our event and profile our position in a very fair and objective way.

The Lord blessed the event greatly; our revenue was ~5 times what we had originally anticipated, and as we said in our posters and handbills, all proceeds are going to benefit heroic young mothers; none of the funds are going into any sort of "all-purpose account".
Contact me and/or check out our site if you're interested in more information or in starting your own local abolitionist society.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

JP Laughlin's credo

From the bottom menu bar of JP Laughlin's blog:

I'd like to offer my own version:

An amoralist cannot be certain that moral values (such as "it is immoral to rape and kill all Caucasian atheists and dismember their bodies") do not exist, but can say that there is not sufficient evidence to believe that one does.
The onus of proof is upon the moralist to demonstrate that a moral value exists.
The onus of proof is also upon the moralist to demonstrate why it is their moral and not some other's.

And an alternative:
An alogician cannot be certain that logical absolutes do not exist, but can say that there is not sufficient evidence to believe that one does.
The onus of proof is upon the logician to demonstrate that a logical absolute exists.
The onus of proof is also upon the logician to demonstrate why it is their logic and not some other's.

JP Laughlin and misunderstanding God and logic

JP Laughlin replies to my last post. Many thanks to JP for the interaction.

I referred to TAG as a form of “proof by verbosity.”

I guess I won't surprise anyone when I say I disagree.  :-)
The concept is new to many, but it's not that complicated. Matt Slick lays it out in a fairly full form here, as you mentioned, but the main points are only 10 or so in number.
Besides, I'd be surprised if you reject modern accepted scientific theorems just b/c they're verbose.
If you want to go to a more populist version, check out
And I have to admit, I'd like to see your answer to these, not just tendentious labeling.

Overall, I doubt many people are swayed from disbelief to belief by this argument.

As Matt Slick is fond of saying, proof is not the same as persuasion. What we're after is the glorification of the Lord Jesus and the evident refutation of the unbeliever. Until you offer something better than "hey, that argument uses a lot of words; ergo it is false" or "laws of logic are similar to laws of etiquette" in response, we've accomplished both.

"Matt Slick states that a god cannot make ‘A’ into ‘not A’”...admit, state, assert, whatever word works best, the point was about God being subject, or not, to the laws of logic.

Yes, and I explained that already.
It's not that He's subject to them. They are part of His attributes, like love, justice, holiness.  All of His actions are loving, all are just, all are holy, all are logical. It makes no sense to say that God is "subject to holiness". It's just how He is.

I am saying that if God is subject to the laws of logic, then he cannot be their author.

And what I'm reminding you is that we don't claim God is the "author" of laws of logic.

Fall of Man

The point is that this demonstrates that God can create something that is inconsistent with his nature

Yes, He can create things that do not share all of His attributes.  You know, some of His attributes are communicable and others are incommunicable. Still others of the communicable attributes are rejected by some of His creatures.
But the point here is that you're confusing categories, again. I've been telling you that He doesn't act in a way that's not commensurate with His nature, and creating stuff is completely commensurate. But those creations are not identical to God. They're not interchangeable.

This is something that Slick argues God cannot do.

No, he doesn't. I'd appreciate a direct quote from Slick to that effect.

Have I heard of sin? Your responses have been amicable and fair thus far, I’m not sure why you felt the need for condescension at this juncture.

I have to admit, it is difficult to take seriously someone who whiffs on one of the most foundational doctrines of Christianity while critiquing Christianity.

OK, now on to your defense of AthExp's statement that logic doesn't require a mind.

There are facts to be known about the universe. These facts can be described through reason and logic.

This is an assumption, which you have not shown to be true.
It's also quite telling that you yourself are a mind, and are trying to inform this issue through the expressions of a mind.  Part of my refutation of your point is to remind you that you actually have no idea what a mind-less universe is like.  You've never experienced it, never peeked into one.  And of course, if you were to do so, then you'd remove the mind-less part of the equation. In this sense, it reflects Heisenberg's uncertainty principle.
Also, mind-less universes have to deal with the absurdities such as how it got to be there, the impossibility of an eternal universe vis-à-vis the impossibility of spontaneous self-creation.  I don't envy you your task.

The laws of logic are “laws” for us, not for existence.

1) So they are both laws for existence and not laws for existence.  Right?
2) What if I have a different idea of the laws of logic?  Which of our ideas is right, and how can we know, how can we judge between them?

things in existence do not need a prescription to behave...they will behave as they behave whether or not the minds are present to observe them.

1) I'd call the laws of logic normative, actually.
2) Again, you've never observed anything like that. What is your argument for this statement? How do you know?

In this context, while the statement “a is a” is conceptual, what the statement applies to is not conceptual.

It sure sounds conceptual - it's an idea, isn't it?

How a thing behaves, or its features, requires no “other thing” (eg, a mind) for it to behave or to have those features.

How do you know?

The property of “roundness” does not need a mind to conceive it before things can be round, for example.

You just conceived of roundness and then told me that no mind is necessary to conceive of it. Convenient, isn't it?

Slick only “had him” in the sense that he got Dillahunty to accept the category error.

Actually, I don't think Dillahunty did accept it, if I recall correctly (but I might not be recalling it correctly).
My contention was that Dillahunty's "it's abstract, not conceptual" didn't hold water, for reasons I've been laying out here.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

JP Laughlin and the Atheist Experience

Via Twitter I happened upon one @JPLaughlin and we got to talking when I visited his blog.
He refers there to a couple of phone calls Matt Slick of CARM made to the Atheist Experience live call-in show a few years ago, which I reviewed here.  I think these dialogues, while a bit redundant because of atheist Matt Dillahunty's refusal to advance the conversation and obtuse insistence on his mistaken naked assertion, are some of the best atheist-versus-presuppositionalist material out there in the .mp3-osphere, up there with the first Wilson-Barker debate, the Bahnsen-Stein debate, and the Manata-Barker debate.

Anyway, JP Laughlin is unsurprisingly sympathetic to the AthExp, but he gets some things wrong.  You may read my question and his reply there, in which he invited me to post something more substantial on his blog.
It is a kind offer, but I think it's probably best that he post on his blog and I on mine, and we can inform each other of new posts and comments as the dialogue progresses.

Thanks for the answer.
It's interesting - Slick dominated that exchange with the AthExp b/c it became clear after the, I don't know, 8th repetition of Dillahunty's naked assertion about logical absolutes.  Slick had him, and I'm not sure if Dillahunty knew it, but it's painfully obvious.

What's perhaps funnier is how the AthExp is so out of line with other atheism apologists.  Who's right, and how can we know?

Now, a few other lines to respond to here:
Dillahunty gets Slick to admit that a god cannot make “A” into “not A” because it would be a logic contradiction he demonstrates that Slick’s god is subject to the laws of logic and, therefore, cannot be the author of them

That's not an admission that God can't make A into non-A. It's our position. This is kind of like saying "I got Slick to admit that Jesus died on a cross. LOL!!!"
Well, yes, quite so. Well done.
God is not, however, in submission to the laws of logic, and Slick never said that; it's your telescoping of what you want Slick to be saying.  Rather, God always acts in accord with His nature and character, and He is logical. The universe operates in accord with the logical way He created it.  So that's the answer.
Contrast that with the atheistic position, where the laws of logic somehow...arose...spontaneously...whereas nothing existed before. That's a little bit, ah, dubious.

The problem with this is that, if this god exists, while he cannot make something inconsistent with his nature, he can make humans who can lie.

Again, yes, so what?
You know, you're just one more in a long line of atheists who can't bring themselves to remember that the Bible teaches about the Fall of Man.

These humans that can lie, therefore, are inconsistent with this god’s nature.

I don't even know what this is supposed to mean, honestly.  It's a pretty large category error.
Yes, God's creation is currently in some disarray; have you heard of something called "sin"?

If this were to be logically consistent, it would mean that Slick’s god could also make a square circle. This line of reasoning is self-refuting.

Sorry, but this is silly.

Now for your comment:
The short (and unsatisfying) answer to your question is…it depends. It depends on what you mean by both “concept” and “mind.”

It's not difficult. Concepts are ideas, subjects of thought.
Minds are intelligent entities capable of thought and reflection. So...your answer, please?

In brief, if there were no minds in the universe, for example, and the only thing existing was one thing we now signify “asteroid,” then the “logical absolutes” apply to it even in the absence of any minds to conceive the absolutes or perceive the “asteroid.”

W/o the ability to apply a logical statement to it, how do you know this is true?
We don't live in that universe.
Thanks for any reply whenever you may have time. I'm not big on time limits, as I understand what it's like to have a life outside the blogosphere.