Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

Ray Comfort is 180 degrees from reality

Sat Oct 01, 2011 12:57 am by theyounghistorian77

Ok so i had a really good laugh today. I decided that a watching of Ray Comfort’s “180 movie” would be a good way to waste 33 mins of my life. The best synopsis of the contents of the film at present can be found on RationalWiki. But i can boil it down to two arguments Ray presents:

1) Hitler is Anti-christian.

2) Abortion in America is really akin to the Holocaust.

The second argument is really little more than the application of godwins law into a debate, furthermore the connection between abortion doctors in America today and the Nazis in the 1930’s and 1940’s is more silly and superficial than what Ray and his fellow religious propagandists make it out to be. Yes it is true that the Nazis used forced abortions upon women deemed “unAryan” (women who were Jewish or Slavic, etc.) in order to decrease their number as part of their eugenic policies, however for healthy Women of the Volksgemeinschaft it was a different story, because for them abortions were banned. Indeed in 1936, Heinrich Himmler created a Reich Central Office just for the purpose “for the Combating of Homosexuality and Abortion”! You know those two things Ray and his fellow religious fundamentalists don’t like. Being sarcastic here like i sometimes am, Does this mean that by ray’s logic he may be *shock horror* akin to a Nazi? In the real world, of course he isn’t!

But for the purposes of this, im going to attempt to rebut his other argument, that Hitler was no Christian.


A justification for abortion

Sat Sep 24, 2011 3:45 am by Aught3

The most common justification for abortion that I hear is to explain the differences between a foetus and a normal person. If a foetus lacks the important and distinguishing features that make killing a person wrong, the moral issue surrounding abortion is rendered null. While I so think personhood arguments provide valuable support for the legalisation of abortion, I also struggle when it comes to setting the actual legal limit for acceptable abortion implied by this argument. The limit could be wet at eight weeks when the foetus become recognisably human, or around 20 weeks when most of the personhood criteria are met, or some time after birth when full personhood is obtained. The first option is hardly different from a total abortion ban, the second leaves a period of pregnancy when abortion is outlawed, and the third justifies some types of infanticide. Because of these difficulties I prefer the dependence justification for abortion.

Basically, I would argue that while the foetus is absolutely dependent on the mother for nutrients, oxygen, and a safe environment she should be allowed to withdraw that support. The resulting death of the foetus, while predictable, is not murder because it results from the withdrawal of sustenance. I also add an extra requirement of exploring reasonable options that could avoid the need for an abortion but since current technology does not allow aborted embryos to survive and develop independently from the mother, abortion should remain legal.

However, over on M and M (New Zealand’s most popular Christian blog) I found a few counter-examples to my favoured arguments which gave me pause. While some are easy to answer others are a little trickier.

Example 1: “A hiker who breaks her leg a week’s walk from a road will die if her companions do not bring help.’

In New Zealand and other common law jurisdictions there is no duty to rescue. While we might look down on people who leave people to die rather than rescue them, it is not prosecuted as a criminal homicide or any other felony. See this example of mountain climbers being left to die on Everest. I would prefer the general principle that people attempt to rescue others if they are able to do so safely but I also don’t want to force someone into a potentially dangerous action if they are unwilling. This is consistent with my position on abortion. I would prefer if the potential mother to explore all options but if she is unwilling to go through the pregnancy, I would not force it upon her.

Example 2: “An elderly woman may be totally dependant on her children looking after her.’

This is similar to the problem above, there is no legal duty placed upon children to take of their parents in old age. It may be the respectful thing to do, but I do not want the law changed to force children to be responsible for their elderly parents.

Example 3: “A newborn is totally dependent on its mother if it happens to be born in an isolated area where there are no other lactating women and there are no means of bottle-feeding.’

This example I find harder to answer. One point to make is while the above two scenarios are realistic this one is fantastical and unlikely to occur in everyday life. There are always plenty of people around who could look after a new baby if required. Never-the-less, I think this scenario requires an answer: would it be acceptable for a mother to refuse life-sustaining support for her own child? There is a duty to rescue in a parent-child relationship and to refuse aid would be negligence at the least. The expectant mother and the foetus do share an approximation of the parent-child relationship so perhaps the pregnant women does have some duty to provide a life-sustaining environment for her offspring.

I throw it open to you. Is there a relevant difference between the two cases that doesn’t rely on a personhood argument?

A plea to theists: well I guess it is too late for you

Sat Sep 03, 2011 2:48 am by Aught3

One of the greatest ironies in life is watching theists try to reason about moral philosophy. The mess of contradictions produced makes for some laugh-out-loud reading and can be terrific fun to unpack. Working through this kind of fractal wrongness can also help us to clarify our own moral reasoning and shows us why secular morality is superior to that of the religious.Exhibit A is Rabbi Moshe Averick’s A Plea to Atheists: Pedophilia Is Next On the Slippery Slope; Let Us Turn Back Before It Is Too Late. I’ve picked out a few of the major problems and given my response to them.


Averick’s main beef with atheistic morality is that is subjective:

“For the atheist, morality is simply a word that is used to describe the type of system that an individual or society subjectively prefers. Each society establishes, maintains, and modifies its values to suit its own needs.’

While some atheists do see morality as subjective there are also moral philosophies based on facts and a shared understanding of reality (i.e., objective). Rabbi Averick also thinks it is a problem that moral philosophy can update itself as new arguments are made and accepted. As someone who works in the sciences I am comfortable with knowledge improving as new facts are discovered and new ideas developed. There will be setbacks, aberrant paths that are found to be wrong, but on the long view a gradual improvement is continuously made. In modern social democracies can we really doubt that we are better off today than in the past? We have more freedoms and more rights than ever before. This is not the result of mere subjective whims that happened to go the right way, but a recognition that some actions of the past (e.g., slavery) were wrong and should no longer be permitted in our society. Dogmas, on the other hand, do not update and are stuck in our less enlightened past.


Peter Singer
Averick spends a significant chunk of the article attacking Peter Singer for his views on consequentialist utilitarianism. Which is an objective moral system. The Rabbi doesn’t seem to recognise that his criticism of moral subjectivism doesn’t apply to Singer but he continues regardless:

“Singer went on to explain that he is a “consequentialist.’ For the benefit of the philosophically challenged let me explain “consequentialism’ in a nutshell: If you like the consequences it’s ethical, if you don’t like the consequences it’s unethical. Thus, if you enjoy child pornography and having sex with children it’s ethical, if you dislike child pornography and having sex with children it’s unethical.‘

What Singer’s philosophy actually entails is the evaluation of harm that results from an action. Utilitarianism considers happiness to be desirable and harm to be deleterious. This means that when assessing an action for its morality you should look at the consequences in terms of the people harmed and the people helped. So if enjoying child pornography and having sex with children harms someone then it is unethical. Since paedophilia often has traumatic effects on the child involved, their parents, and the wider community Singer would most likely find most cases of paedophilia morally wrong. So much for the slippery slope argument.


Averick claims that since we resulted from slime (or from dust if you are Jewish, I guess that’s better?) that means we are morally bereft. The fact that we evolved from primates does not degrade humanity. It is thrilling to think that all species on this planet are interrelated though the process of evolution. What makes humans different, more significant than our jungle dwelling relatives, is our ability to reason. When we exercise our unique intelligence we get to make our own decisions about meaning, value, and morality. Atheists aren’t handed their morality from on high, we have to think about it, and thanks to evolution we have that ability. After spending most of the article decrying the ability of secular philosophers to reason about ethics, Averick engages in the most dishonest part of the article. He simply throws out a bunch of ethical rules without giving any justification for his claims.

  • All men are created in the image of God and are therefore inherently and intrinsically precious.
  • All men have been endowed by God with unalienable rights and among these are the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
  • Thou shalt not murder.
  • Thou shalt not steal.
  • Thou shalt not bear false witness.
  • Thou shalt not commit adultery, incest, or bestiality.
  • Thou shalt not have sex with children, and if you do you will be looked upon as a disgusting and contemptible criminal and will be treated as such.
  • Thou shall teach these laws to your children.

Fortunately, we can recognise the source for some of these claims, and they don’t come from a god. The ones about unalienable rights are from the American Declaration of Independence and the rules about murder, stealing, perjury, and adultery are from the Torah. These moral rules aren’t from God but from the men who wrote the documents. But where do the other bits and pieces come from? Since Averick hasn’t demonstrated God is the moral author, we have to conclude they come from Averick himself. The Rabbi simply prefers it to be the case that paedophilia is immoral and so claims that it is a divine command. This is merely Self-Projection As God. After spending an entire article railing against subjective morality we find that the only justification Averick has is that he just feels paedophilia is wrong (and God agrees with me!) Unfortunately for Averick the main point of his article is that atheism leads to paedophilia. It is rather easily countered by the mention to two religions: Catholicism and Islam. Both of these theistic beliefs have managed to rationalise and accept (respectively) the sexual molestation of children. If theistic societies are also capable of accepting paedophilia then Averick’s point is moot and it seems that God does not totally agree with our hapless Rabbi on the immorality of pedophilia.

Irony, it’s everywhere.

Dark ages, Science and Christianity.

Mon Jul 04, 2011 6:57 pm by theyounghistorian77

Here’s one of those little gems that i do occasionaly come across myself and sometimes in the Chat which i frequently visit, That Europe from the moment Rome collapsed (often interpreted as being around the year 500 AD although in my country the Romans left circa 410 AD) went into some “Dark age” an age that ended circa 1500. A further picture of this time is the notion that it was the religious element of this apparant “1000 yr dark age” that really stifled human progress. I take it many of you may have heard the joke going around that without this religious element to this apparant “1000yr dark age”, It would have ended so much sooner and Humanity would be freely colonizing the other planets by now. In picture form, it looks a little something like this


But what a false picture this is!


Taxation as investment

Sun Jun 12, 2011 4:27 am by Aught3

Okay let’s face it, nobody really likes paying taxes. Taxes mean goods and services cost more and we see less in our pocket at the end of the day. But rather than viewing taxes as a negative, we should view them as a positive investment in the current and future state of our country. While savings and investments can hurt us in the short term, over a longer period of time they bring us many positive and important benefits.

Let’s start with an easy one: excise taxes. These are taxes on specific goods usually with the aim of discouraging use. They help overcome the problem of market failure caused by negative externalities. One example is petrol. When a buyer and seller agree to a price for this good they are taking into account the personal cost and benefit of exchanging a certain volume of fuel for a certain price. What they are not taking into account is their negative impacts of the rest of society. Using more petrol means the buyer and seller are contributing to pollution, global warming, traffic congestion, and negative health effects like higher asthma rates. By leveling an excise tax, the government makes sure more transaction costs are paid for and not passed on to unwilling third parties, including future generations. Even better, the government can take this revenue stream and use it to help mitigate the effect of excise taxes of poor citizens and to start developing alternatives so the negative consequences of the market are eliminated entirely.

So what about property taxes? This will depend on your view of property rights. I find it rather difficult to believe in absolute property rights because I do not see how a legitimate ownership assertion can be made over a non-owned resource in the first place. If the original ownership claim is illegitimate then any sale or inheritance of that resource is insufficient to continue asserting absolute ownership. On the other hand, it would very be difficult to run a functional economy without the convenient fiction of property rights. These rights allow stability and development, taking them away completely would allow resources to change hands so many times that nothing could get done. But the cost of allowing these property rights has to be paid by the people who gain the advantages. Property taxes are the compensation owed to the wider community who are giving up their claim to your resources in order to allow you to benefit. These taxes can then be used to support others who missed out on the appropriation of resources or to develop public property such as roads and parks that benefit everyone who wishes to use them.

Finally, income taxes. Wealth is not earned in a vacuum; it is instead the result of a well developed and functioning society. Taxes pay for education, health services, transport networks, safety inspections, police, fire-fighters, and the justice system – all the things that keep a modern nation a vibrant place to do business. An income tax is a fundamental part of this system allowing the provision of all these services – it is the cost of earning a living in this type of society. If you are not paying for the services you use, then you are not doing your fair share. Income taxes are not imposed, but are agreed as part of taking on employment. They are part of your employment agreement and, as everyone knows a priori income will be taxed, there’s no excuse for calling it coercion. Further, income taxes can be made highly progressive helping to increase equality within a society. Benefits can even be given to those with low pay packets boosting their incomes. With higher wage equality comes higher levels of employment and a sustained demand for goods and services in what is called ‘wage-led growth’. This is the Scandinavian model of development and has proven itself to be one of the fairest ways to organise a growing economy while maintaining a healthy, happy population.

The results of a sensible tax investment can be seen in more efficient markets that take account of externalities, as compensation for allowing some unequal access to resources, and producing a vibrant and egalitarian economy with a happy population. I for one am happy to invest in this kind of future.

Pope in-fallacy

Fri Sep 17, 2010 7:17 am by Aught3

A recent speech by the current Pope, in Britain, where he links atheism and Nazism has caused some controversy in the blogosphere and in our own forums. The Pope spoke of “a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society’ and went on to express concerns over “aggressive forms of secularism’. This is such a common trope in debates that I wanted to take an entire blog post to explain what I see as the gaping flaw in this form of argument. What I want to discuss is the way atheism and theism should be properly related to religion and ideology and why it is incorrect to set up atheism as the counter-position to religion.

Atheism, at its most inclusive, describes anyone who has no belief in gods. From even this basic understanding, it is remarkably difficult to see how atheism could be expected to produce any action from an individual atheist. There is no causal line from the absence of a single belief to any other belief or action, be it good or bad. Even explicit atheism (the denial of gods) does not imply any further belief or action. If we say this for atheism, in order to be consistent, we must also say this for theism. Theism (the belief in gods), as a single belief, does not entail any other beliefs or actions by the individual theist. A theist may believe in the philosopher’s god, a non-interventionist god, Allah, the trinity, or a whole pantheon of pagan gods. But even these basic beliefs about the nature of gods are additional to the initial claim of theism, not derived from it. Taking the example of the Thirty Years war, the Pope would have us blame theism for the conflict. However, given both sides of the conflict were theists this conclusion makes little sense. The true dividing factor was the different religions, Catholicism and Protestantism, which each side maintained. My contention is that while atheism and theism are blameless in the great atrocities of history, ideology and religion should be held to account.


Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Sun Aug 08, 2010 1:09 pm by TheYoungAndRestless

I’m having a peculiar thought this morning.

After a few exchanges on message boards, I’ve been directed to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy more than once in the last few days. And, today, glancing through it, I’m left with a rather odd feeling. It’s not entirely one of having found a child with his hand in the cookie jar, but more the feeling that there some of the cookies are missing.

I direct the curious reader to a few articles and I will ask a few questions. Mind you, I cannot suggest anything more than to wonder if there isn’t anything more going on here.


William Lane Craig Is Not Self-Authenticating

Tue Aug 03, 2010 10:58 pm by TheYoungAndRestless

In the Q&A feature on, William Lane Craig’s online ministry, Craig recently addressed the classic conundrum of two religious persons, a Mormon and a Fundamentalist Christian, as the case may be, each communicating a claim to an authentic experience with the Holy Spirit; the Christian must conclude, reasons the questioner, that the Mormon is “lying or mistaken,” but the argument is “reversible.” I would like to point out that I see no reason why both Mormon and Christians cannot each have an experience with the Holy Spirit; many religious traditions, in fact the majority of Christians, acknowledge that salvation is open to non-Christians, that a glimmer of grace can persist in non-Christian religious traditions, and that God can work in the hearts of all men, without compromising the essential value of the “correct” religion. But, that aside, I recognize the tension between the two seemingly incompatible claims of authentic experiences with the Holy Spirit and I recognize that for many, this tension matters; one of my subscribers, for example, recently PMed me a hypothetical dialog between a hypothetical Christian and William Lane Craig, a dialectic, capturing much of the original question from The hypothetical Christian says: “My Mormon friend claims to experience the Holy Spirit, and that through this experience he knows his beliefs are true.”

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