Choosing Our Beliefs?

I often hear people talk about what you “choose to believe,” or saying “I choose to believe” such and such. It typically happens in religious or political conversations. People say these things when they think you’re wrong about something, or sometimes when you present evidence against their view and they retreat into “that’s just my opinion” territory. It’s kind of a conversation stopper. As if, once a person has “chosen” certain beliefs, that’s the end of the matter. But can we even choose our beliefs? I don’t think that’s how it happens. There are some beliefs we simply cannot choose … Continue reading Choosing Our Beliefs?

The Other Side Is Evil (Moralized Disagreements)

Rarely do I come across something so closely aligned with my own goals in blogging that I use it in place of an original post. But this video is such a thing. In the context of the Kavanaugh hearings, Kyle Blanchette skillfully breaks down how we tend to view those who disagree with us as stupid or evil. This is NOT about which side is right, or even the reasons behind each side. It’s about how we judge those who disagree with us. Worth you time. Continue reading The Other Side Is Evil (Moralized Disagreements)

Is Faith Irrational?

I came across this wonderful post by Liz Jackson, a Notre Dame PhD candidate in philosophy. She argues for the rationality of faith by taking an argument against her view and showing that it fails. Of course, this doesn’t “prove” anything, but it does undermine several common attacks made against the rationality of faith. I’d be interested to hear from skeptical readers whether they think Jackson succeeds, or if they have an alternative way to argue for faith’s irrationality. One point that stands out to me is that skeptics shouldn’t just define faith as irrational. She explains why in the post. … Continue reading Is Faith Irrational?

Are There Good Reasons To Be An Atheist?

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?

Are They Crazy?

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?

Burden of Proof

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

Evidence Is Relative

I love Legos. My wife says I only wanted kids so that I could buy Legos “for the kids” and play with them. That’s false, of course. I also wanted to buy video games. But Legos were truly my favorite childhood toy.  Nowadays, one fun game I play with the kids is when we each grab a handful of Legos from the box and see what we can build. We may end up with some of the same pieces–a 2×4 brick, a 6×10 plate–but our “sets” will be unique. Thus, our creations turn out unique. There’s an interesting parallel when … Continue reading Evidence Is Relative

The Rationality of a Flu Shot

I don’t like shots, in fact, I avoid them. Ironically, I visited my doctor yesterday, and left with a band-aid on my arm. I didn’t plan to get a flu shot, in fact I’ve never had one and never wanted one, but he talked me into it. I thought the whole dialectic was interesting, so I’ll share it with you. I think it illustrates some valuable principles of rationality and good belief formation. (The doctor actually said some of these things, and some of them I said to myself during the conversation.) The Conversation “Have you considered getting a flu … Continue reading The Rationality of a Flu Shot

The Past Is Irrelevant

I frequently engage in conversations about beliefs. It’s kinda my thing. People often ask about the history of my beliefs or of someone else’s beliefs, especially religious beliefs. Everyone likes to construct a coherent story that will help them make sense of another person’s views. “That’s how they were raised,” or “they’re just reacting against such-and-such,” or “they went though some trauma that caused them to change their beliefs.” While I do find all this psychologically interesting, when it comes to evaluating a person’s beliefs, it is irrelevant. In the video, I don’t explain why the past is irrelevant. The … Continue reading The Past Is Irrelevant