My first “official” podcast is now available on iTunes! Here’s the iTunes link. If you don’t have iTunes, you can listen on Sound Cloud. Feedback on the podcast, including production features, is welcome. I interview Dr. Kenny Boyce, Asst. Prof. of Philosophy at the University of Missouri. This episode focuses on the work of Stephen Hawking, who passed away on March 14, and the implications of his work for philosophy and theology. We start with a discussion of Hawking and his contributions to science, and then delve into how his work on the origins of the universe affects two important … Continue reading Stephen Hawking, Physics, and Theism
Learning about informal logical fallacies turns young philosophy students into gun-slinging logic vigilantes. I love how this comic (courtesy of Existential Comics) portrays the phenomenon. But, as Alexander Pope wrote, “a little learning is a dangerous thing.” In his Essay on Criticism, Pope critiques the critics, warning them of trying to evaluate beyond their skill. The essay (written in verse) holds great wisdom, well-worth the hour it might take to read through. One takeaway is this: if you plan to engage in criticism of a view, be sure you know what you’re talking about. Otherwise your photo may end up on … Continue reading Criticism, Knowledge, and Authority
I debated whether to even write this post. Here’s why: many people think that ANY concession to the “other side” amounts to total defeat. For many, to admit that atheist beliefs are reasonable amounts to admitting they are correct. But this is just plain wrong, and I’ll explain why below. Nevertheless, this post may disturb some theists. Setting the Intellectual Stage I’m going to set the stage here with a few concepts. Then I’ll tell you whether there are good reasons for atheism and what they might be (if there are any). The first idea that needs stating is this: you … Continue reading Are There Good Reasons To Be An Atheist?
Do your subconscious fears influence your political beliefs? As much as we might all like to think that our political positions are the result of careful, rational investigation, they aren’t. A fascinating article published in the Washington Post last November has been making the rounds on social media, claiming (roughly) that feelings of safety will cause more liberal political leanings. Before you dismiss this as nonsense or fake news, hear me out and then take a few minutes to read the article. It should take about 6 minutes. Here’s the link. First of all, this kind of research is inductive, … Continue reading Fear and Reason
My junior year of college (I was studying to be a band director), I met Steve. Steve was, by all accounts, a talented, intelligent, rational person. Like me, he played the saxophone, but unlike me, he *played* the saxophone. I mean, he flew up and down the scales unconsciously, as if he were playing with 14 fingers instead of the standard 10. Oddly, despite his intelligence and talent, he was a conservative Christian. I thought that was crazy. At the time, I viewed religion and God as ridiculous, only for the weak-minded. Despite this, we became fast friends. I still … Continue reading Are They Crazy?
In the wake of recent noise about Mike Pence and his alleged conversations with the Son of God, I though I’d offer an epistemological perspective. How do we evaluate claims like “God spoke to me?” Some Guidelines First, these claims can only be evaluated inductively. That is, we can’t “prove” them true or false. We can only gather reasons and evidence for or against the claim, and then see where these reasons point us. The evidence may point so strongly in one direction as to virtually settle the matter, or it may be closer to 50/50. I’ll discuss what reasons … Continue reading Hearing from Jesus?
In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I thought I’d repost this piece I wrote on racism back in August. Continue reading MLK & the Epistemology of Racism
I often launch my freshmen philosophy classes with a discussion about this painting, The Death of Socrates, by Jacques Louis David: I write a quotation from Socrates on the board: “Philosophy is preparation for death.” What do you think this could mean? One answer is that philosophy, literally the “love of wisdom,” is a lifestyle that helps you live a life you won’t regret in the end. To love wisdom and pursue truth, even to the point of sacrificing other important things, fosters human flourishing and happiness. Another way to describe the goal of this pursuit is intellectual virtue. So, … Continue reading Intellectual Virtue for the New Year
God came quietly. The arrival of the divine on earth was much subtler and cloaked than most of us would expect, or demand. It’s worth asking, “Why?” I could launch into a theodicy about the strategicness of God’s particular mode of infiltration. How God values seekers more than mere believers. In other words, if God just wanted maximal belief in his existence, he would have come differently. But the subtlety of his visitation leaves the path home only partially traversed. He waits for us somewhere in the middle, sending word of his presence. Only those who sincerely want to meet … Continue reading The Epistemology of Christmas
Matt, a PhD student, studies how microbes influence the immune system. Matt is also an atheist, and since he’s exceptionally smart, I thought it would be interesting to interview him about his beliefs. I wondered about the “whys” behind his atheism. During our conversation, the concept of the “burden of proof” came up. Matt believes that in the dispute over God’s existence, it is the theist who bears the burden of proof. In other words, atheism is the simpler, more natural position, and the theist has a lot of extra work to do in defending claims about gods. After all, … Continue reading Burden of Proof