28 December 2006
I missed this gem from my European friend, Q, in response to this posting:

Yep, how different from when the USA took territory (New Mexico) or how different when Israel took more territory.

You are really full of it aren't you ?
Are you truly that insecure, that short sighted, that filled with blind hate and so sanctimoneous that you have become totally emphatically challenged ?One word springs to mind to describe your narcistic ramblings : sad.

Q, you are an ignorant and irrational man, despite your claims to be better educated and more intelligent than I. I keep waiting for an actual argument from you, an argument, to be precise, on the merits of any case you wish to make. I keep waiting for you to present facts and apply logic to them. Sadly, all I ever really get from you is ad hominem garbage like this.

Well, you do come close to an argument here, when you mention the takings by the U. S. and Israel. But all I can really say is, Nice try.

You see, I didn’t defend either of the takings you mention. So I’m not committed. I can consistently complain of the Muslim takings in the once-Christian middle east without having to say a single word about the takings you mention.

In fact, I don’t think that the U. S. should have purchased New Mexico, but that happened before I was born so I don’t know that anything can be done about it now. And since I’m not an Israeli, and since the Israelis haven’t sought my opinion on the matter, I don’t offer one. Go find an Israeli to argue with about that one. (Assuming that you can actually bring yourself to offer an argument to anyone.)

But even so, did you miss the part where I mentioned “the hand-wringing on the part of many Americans for the land we ‘stole’ from the American Indian or from Mexico”? You surely must have. Why would you mention it if you caught on that I mentioned it?

And yes, Q, it is different. First, the U. S. didn’t take the land from Mexico. The land was, as I mentioned above, purchased. As I explained in a posting just this past spring:

“[W]e purchased that land for a total of 25$ million dollars in two land deals (i.e., [1] The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo which concluded a war that [Mexico] lost, so that we could just have taken the land instead of shelling out $15 million; and [2] The Gadsden Purchase which cost us $10 million). In todays dollars that amount would be about $554,457,077.76—almost twice Mexico’s 2005 public debt (which I have calculated to be about somewhere in the neighborhood of $420 million dollars; but I’m willing to stand corrected). By the way, no one is certain exactly what [Mexico’s] politicians did with the money we paid them.”

Obviously, the issue remains contentious, Q, but it doesn’t involve the sort of taking that the article mentions Muslims being involved in. (Besides, have you ever asked yourself how Mexico got that land in the first place? I suspect not.)

Secondly, there is still that hand-wringing I mentioned—some of which I’ve done myself. I have ancestors, Q, who lived in what was once Mexico and is now South Texas (specifically, the Harlingen area). This is not an impersonal matter for me. But I have never heard my father or grandfather complain about being Americans. I have never, ever, heard any of my relatives complain about being Americans rather than Mexicans. In fact—irony of ironies—the only ‘Solís’ I ever heard express any desire to have been a Mexican rather than an American is the Solís who writes this blog. That’s right: me. So let me respectfully say “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” (Not that I’m surprised.)

But getting back to the hand-wringing. Whatever you think about the results of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and The Gadsden Purchase, we have at least had our moments of national hand-wringing over the matter. The Muslims who took the Christian middle east from the Christians have not.

It remains the case that, as the article argues, what the Muslims take is legitimately theirs, but what is taken from them is ‘stolen’. You offer no argument against the position. But then again, you never really offer any arguments at all. Why start now I guess.

And so to answer your questions in turn:

No. I’m not full of it. I have a pretty good idea what I’m talking about. Unlike you, I suppose. And no, I’m not ‘insecure’, ‘short sighted’, or ‘filled with blind hate’. I reject your tacit assertion that one must be one or all of those things in order to be involved in an argument—on any matter. Given that you are ‘arguing’ with me, then (applying your own ‘logic’) you must be ‘insecure’, ‘short sighted’, or ‘filled with blind hate’ yourself. (Of course, it is consistent with your typical, ad hominem arguments.)

As for my being ‘sanctimoneous’ [sic]. Assuming that by ‘sanctimonious’ you mean ‘having a false piety characterized by hypocrisy’ then, given the foregoing distinction between the U. S. ‘takings’ and the Muslim takings, together with the fact that I do not assert that there was absolutely no wrong-doing on the part of the U. S., I’m saying, “No. Not sanctimonious.” You know very well that my posting involved nothing like an assertion, whether implicit or explicit, that U.S. takings are inarguably right, while Muslim takings are inarguably wrong.

I can see how I might have been open to being called sanctimonious if I had claimed that any and all U.S. territory seizures were right and, at the same time, that and all Muslims seizures were not. But I didn’t. In fact, you arrogant snob, it is precisely the Muslims who are sanctimonious. That was the argument of the article to which I linked: It is Muslims, not this humble American blogger, who assert the legitimacy of their land seizures while denying the legitmacy of any retaking of territory they seized!

Five words come to mind to describe your comments: amusing, typical, ad hominem, irrational (in the sense of presenting no arguments, no logical rejoinder).

Thanks again for visiting. It’s always a pleasure hearing from you.
27 December 2006
I’m now certain I understand why the left believe we are losing in Iraq, and why they can never be convinced otherwise. The left believe that we are losing in Iraq because we shouldn’t be there in the first place and they are unwilling—or just incapable (I haven’t decided which)—to distinguish two issues: (1) whether we should have invaded in the first place and (2) whether we are winning. It is possible that the answer to both questions can be 'Yes' without getting involved in contradiction. It may be that we shouldn’t have invaded, but also that we are winning.

But the left are those who believe in certain twisted formalisms. If, for example, a suspect in a criminal investigation wasn’t ‘mirandized’ then, even if a jury should find him guilty he may be acquitted on that single technicality. You see, according to the left if on their view you 'shouldn’t' have won, then you did not win. If we shouldn’t have invaded Iraq then we can’t be winning. It’s just a matter of reasoning backward from that predetermined conclusion. (Kind of like the Duke Lacrosse team rape case.)

This suspicion was confirmed just today by a caller to Rush Limbaugh’s show.
Mark Belling, substituting for Rush Limbaugh, asks if the coming execution of Saddam Hussein isn’t demonstration that we are winning, or have won, in Iraq. Our objective was regime change in Iraq; we wanted to remove the Hussein regime from power, and we have done. Therefore we have won.

A caller, in response, argued exactly as I outlined above. At first, I was irritated at his reasoning. But then it occurred to me that that is precisely how the left reasons, especially in courtrooms (oh, yeah, and tax policy) and we shouldn’t be surprised.

Of course, the caller also redefined our goals, insisting—in addition to the fact that we shouldn’t be in Iraq—that there is less stability in Iraq now than before the invasion, and more violence. As if anyone stated prior to the invasion that our goals were stability and absence of violence in Iraq. Right.

It was about regime change. The present regime will soon execute the leader of the former regime. Regime change—regardless the deficiencies of the new regime—has been accomplished.

That mission has been accomplished.

As long as I'm on the subject of specious reasoning, I might also mention the caller who suggested that our government is also in a hurry to see Saddam executed so that we can successfully cover up (or continue to cover up) the fact that the U. S. provided the chemicals which were used to gas the Kurds. On this man's view, it is somehow the responsibility of the the U. S. that the Kurds were gassed.

I had been out of the Army for just a few months when it was reported (March 1988) that the Kurds (participants in a 40-year insurgency against Iraqi rule) had been gassed. At that time Iraq and the U. S. were allies (not friends). It just doesn't seem to me that selling someone a weapon is tantamount to endorsing the use of that weapon to commit murder.

I own weapons. I haven't used any of them to murder anyone. If I did, those who sold me those weapons wouldn't have to cover up that fact. Well, not yet anyway.
26 December 2006

Jesus doesn’t know Andrew Sullivan’s ‘faith’

He’s at it again. Now comes Andrew Sullivan to explain the recent set-backs for the religious right, among other things.

Andrew Sullivan can have his thesis, that this was the year that religion learned humility. It won’t go down as the year that he learned any. For all his talk about how wonderful a thing ‘doubt’ is in religious faith, he never admits any doubts about the positions that he takes. He is quite certain about his positions. I suppose we can only conclude that, for Sullivan, having humility means agreeing with Andrew Sullivan.

I heard him interviewed perhaps a month ago on Hugh Hewitt’s radio program. My, my, my. Talk about certainty. Stubborn certainty. And talk about a man being a wuss! Hewitt—talking to Sullivan about Sullivan’s recent book—asked Andrew a few questions about his own religious convictions. Sullivan started crying “Inquisition!” If ‘doubt’ means questioning, then one cannot ‘doubt’ Andrew Sullivan’s Christian orthodoxy, for if one does so one runs the risk of being called an Inquisitor.

I’ll stipulate to Sullivan’s overall thesis about ‘religion’ learning some ‘humility’. I’ll even overlook his reification of religion. But there are two things I cannot overlook.

1. There is not only one answer to any question. Sullivan asserts this on the simple grounds that many answers are offered. If we allowed logic like this in, say, a court room, no one could ever be convicted: to the question of the accused’s guilt, the prosecution offers one answer and the defense another. True, the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty. But the point is that the fact that many answers to a question are proffered doesn’t mean that there is not only one answer. All but one of the proferred answers could be wrong. Sullivan, however, is pretty certain, that there is more than one answer.

2. ‘Doubt’ is an important element to faith. Jesus doesn’t seem to know this. One of his most constant rebukes of his own disciples was their doubt, their lack of faith. Sullivan ought to qualify his claim somehow. Some ‘doubt’ may have a place in faith, but not with regard to every assertion one might make within a faith system. A faith system, though not formalized, is an axiom system. Providing that the faith system’s rules of inference are followed, there need not be doubt about everything. Every assertion within a faith system is not a probability statement, as Sullivan seems to believe. For example, Sullivan seems to think that the religious right ought to entertain doubts about their position on fetal stem cell research. Why? He doesn’t tell us. But need we doubt? If one starts with the premise that humans, from conception to death (just to limit our scope here) belong to God, then there ought be no doubt that we shouldn’t presume to have a right to utilize body parts as we wish. We ought also to understand that the fact that a fetus may not be aware of its own destruction is not enough to justify its destruction. Why? Because the Scriptures teach us that we shouldn’t put stumbling blocks before the blind, or curse the deaf. Quite simply: the fact that people will be unaware of the harm we do them is not an excuse for doing them harm.

Sullivan’s real problem isn’t so much that he believe’s there’s room for his doubts in the orthodox Christian faith. The orthodox Chrisitan faith isn’t his faith. Don’t get me wrong: he has doubts about the orthodox Christian faith, but that’s only because he’s certain about his own heterodox faith. Maybe. I guess.

Well, probably.

21 December 2006

My invisible friend is back!!!

(Since he likes to sign all his comments ROFL—in order, I imagine, to try to hurt my feelings by laughing at me [that’s rational]—I’m going to call him Q. Get it?)

In response to my previous posting (below), Q, (who first graced us with his presence here) comments:

[1] Being full of yourself isn't what I would call humble.
[2] Believing in some sky-daddy isn't what I would call intelligent.
[3] Admiring the drivel of that article only furthers the proof about the lack of insight.
[4] Believing in myths might be cute in the young but once one becomes mature of mind one should leave childish things behind.

This is fairly typical of what we quickly learned to expect from ol’ Q during his last visit. During that visit he informed us that religion is a crutch, as if (even if it’s true) that fact alone refutes any religion. Well, Q, it doesn’t: a given religion could be both (a) a crutch and (b) true.

I guess since, as he informed us himself, Q is better educated and more intelligent than we Americans are, this must be the way that super geniuses argue. I feel so inadequate.

But more to the point (even an idiot like me must try):

I will let people who actually know me determine whether I am truly full of myself, or writing ‘tongue in cheek’. Anyone who bothered to click on the link I provided to the okcupid.com website and read the clearly tongue in cheek description of the INTJ would, I think, conclude that my own posting was equally tongue in cheek. Besides, that childish myth I believe in—the 'Sky Daddy', as you called Him—would not take kindly to my addressing myself to Him in the way that I did (i.e., “Thank you, Lord GOD for making me brilliant and keeping me humble”) if I had done so in earnest.

Your repeated assertions (not tongue in cheek) of your own superior education and intelligence have given me an idea your humility.

Your atheism is to me indicative of your own lack of humilty. You no doubt believe that your atheism is rationally justified by some evidence. And herein lies your arrogance, that you believe you are intelligent enough to understand and pass judgment on any evidence and arguments for God’s existence. Perhaps you are. But I wonder has it occurred to you that you may not be. My guess? No. You are convinced that you possess sufficient intelligence. Perhaps you do. Who knows? So, maybe I am full of myself. But with you around, I’m in good company.

Your belief that your intelligence is demonstated simply by your atheism is to me akin to someone who’s left-handed making a silly assertion like this: “All left-handed people are of superior intelligence. Ask any of us lefties; we’ll tell you.”

‘Intelligence’ is a measure of logical reasoning and problem solving skills. One is entitled to be thought of as ‘intelligent’ on the basis of demonstrated skill in logical reasoning and problem solving, not on the basis of his philosophical presuppositions and pre-rational decisions. It’s not so much the conclusion that is reached that shows intelligence as it is the reasoning used to get there. You’ve not offered anything like a critique of any reasoning, so you aren’t entitled rationally to an opinion.

As long as we’re on the subject, however, I tend to agree with Alvin Platinga that belief in God is a properly basic belief, a presupposition, a pre-rational decision. You have your own pre-rational commitments, such as that the things you see are really there, and I wouldn’t make any determination about your intelligence on the basis of what those pre-rational commitments are.

So far my anonymous friend in your comments here you have done little but engage in ad hominem arguments—hardly a demonstration of your superior intelligence. For example, you could have presented, even if only abbreviated, a logial rejoinder to the article I linked to. (Actually, you should have done, because you aren’t epistemically entitled to characterize as ‘drivel’ what you’ve not demonstrated to be ‘drivel’. And you certainly are not entitled to talk about that which ‘furthers the proof’ of something you haven’t proved. Unless, of course, you count a mere assertion as a proof. I don’t.)

But no, just more ad hominem, more ridicule of an opponent's position--as if that alone will do the job.

If you have the goods, then by all means deliver them. Otherwise, stop asserting your superior intelligence on the sole basis of your pre-rational commitments in comparison with your opponents’. Pre-rational commitments aren’t a sign of our intelligence. How we reason from those commitments is.

Give us a brief argument against belief in a ‘sky daddy’ as evidence that you’ve got the goods, and not just a smart mouth. Unless, of course, it is your belief that ridicule constitutes refutation. Because so far that’s how it looks.

No. Do one even better. Give us a refutation of the claim that belief in God is properly basic (i.e., a pre-rational commitment). As smart as you are Platinga should be no problem for you.

So far Q your handful of visits here have confirmed my suspicion that when it comes to your atheism you have nothing. The ability to ridicule your opponents’ beliefs is not demonstrative of an ability to refute those beliefs. It’s also (what’s that word you used?)—childish.

Last time, Q, I told you that you had an inflated sense of your ability to intimidate. You still do.

By the way, on the subject of atheism and intelligence let me say just this. Isaac Asimov was an atheist; he was also demonstrably intelligent.

You are an atheist.
20 December 2006
Everybody hates me.

And I couldn’t care less.

Those darn kids I went to high school with were right after all: I am a wacko. Or a
crackpot, if you prefer a less sophisticated term.

On the other hand, it’s perfectly understandable that everyone hates me. INTJs are the smartest of the human species. And deep down inside the rest of you troglodites know this to be true.

Here’s something even more strange: INTJs tend to be over-represented among people who don’t believe in a ‘higher supernatural being’. Even among my fellow crackpots, I’m a crackpot: As is well-known, I’m a devout Christian. (Thank you, Lord GOD for making me brilliant and keeping me humble.)

What do you know? I’m an arrogant bastard with a streak of humility. Curiouser and curiouser.

Alarming News

And speaking of arrogance—and humility,
this posting at American Digest is timely and, I think, true. I wish I’d written it. I could have.
19 December 2006
Hanukah, a celebration of the religious right?

That’s what Michael Medved says:

‘Anyone who takes even ten minutes to read the actual history of the Maccabean revolt will see similarities between its priestly leaders (most conspicuously, the great commander Judah Maccabee, son of Mattathias) and today’s prominent figures in the Religious Right. The Maccabees insisted on re-affirming ultimate right and wrong, and saw their battle as part of a timeless struggle of good and evil. They demanded a return to the old ways, to the authentic, uncompromising laws of God and the Torah, and they felt only contempt for the Hellenizing modernists who fought against them. The rebels represented the common people – the poor and the humble artisans and the struggling farmers who remained loyal to the ancient faith – while their enemies represented the pampered urban elites, over-educated in the cosmopolitan ways of Judea’s Greek overlords. Again, the basic prayer of the holiday makes clear the essential nature of the struggle, “In the days of Mattathias….and his sons, when the wicked Greek kingdom rose up against your people Israel to make them forget Your Torah and compel them to stray from the statutes of Your Will, You in Your great mercy stood up for them in the time of their distress. You took up their grievance, judged their claim, and avenged their wrong. You delivered the strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure, the wicked into the hands of the righteous, and the wanton into the hands of the diligent students of Your Torah.” ’
Speaking of territory that Muslims take…

Wise men may still seek the King of the Jews, but the truly wise wouldn’t go looking for him
in Bethlehem these days. (Not, of course, that He would be found there these days anyway, though He isn’t very far from any of us.)

Dennis Prager

A God-sanctioned double standard?

As many people have noted, many Muslims have a rather self-centered notion of fairness. For example, when they take territory it is legitimately theirs; when they lose territory it was stolen from them. (Then there are those for whom the mere presence of ‘infidel’ militaries constitutes an ‘occupation.’)

It is irritating—to put it mildly—to compare the hand-wringing on the part of many Americans for the land we ‘stole’ from the American Indian or from Mexico, with the lack thereof on the part of Muslims over the lands they stole from Christians in what is now called the Middle East (like, e.g., Iraq and Syria, just to name two).

I was put in mind of all this by the Pope’s visit to the Hagia Sophia. What used to be the most beautiful church in the (once-Christian) Middle East is now a museum, and that after having been a mosque. This museum-and-former-mosque which was once a church is situated in a city once called Constantinople. Now it’s Istanbul.

Why did Constantinople get the works? Nobody’s business but the Turks. (Sorry. Couldn’t resist.)

Being out of the loop last week, I was unable to blog this. The title of the article says enough:
“Islam gets concessions; infidels get conquered” From the final paragraph:

“And [h]erein is [a] final lesson. Muslims' zeal for their holy places and lands is not intrinsically blameworthy. Indeed, there's something to be said about being passionate and protective of one's own. Here the secular West — Christendom's prodigal son and true usurper — can learn something from Islam. For whenever and wherever the West concedes ideologically, politically and especially spiritually, Islam will be sure to conquer. If might does not make right, zeal apparently does” (emphasis mine).
18 December 2006

The Case for Faith (2)

A reply to Sam Harris’ “A Dissent: The Case Against Faith”

[Headnote: This posting is the second installment of a reply to
this piece in Newsweek, 13 November 2006, by Sam Harris. The first installment can be read here.]

“Religion,” according to Harris, “is the one area of our discourse in which people are systematically protected from the demand to give good evidence and valid arguments in defense of their strongly held beliefs.”

One gets the sense that Harris believes that all people everywhere are somehow obligated to give good evidence and valid arguments in support of their truth claims. It’s not that he thinks it’s a good idea, or that it would be awfully nice if they did so. He thinks they ought to. And why not? Anyone who makes a truth claim in biology is required to give evidence and make valid arguments.

But so what if they are? Did you note in Harris’s article (if you read it) a certain disdain for the arbitrary ethics of Christianity? A system of ethics in which doing the ‘right’ thing means that others may still suffer, is to him unreasonable (in addition to being contrary to genuine morality). By virtue of being ‘unreasonable’ the Christian ethical system is arbitrary.

But aren’t there a couple of things arbitrary about Harris’s worldview as expressed in his article? I mean two things: (1) his arbitrary valuation of a child with over 75% of her body over a simple blastocyst; (2) the demand that people give evidence?

Note that in criticising Christians for their stem-cell ethics he complains about the fact that they seem to place a higher value to a blastocyst, which has no self-awareness and, hence, no awareness of its own suffering, than to a self-aware child. Ask yourself this question: Why should the suffering of a 7 year old be of more value to anyone, than that of a blastocyst? Harris, in getting around my charge of arbitrariness, might assert that it is the self-awareness of the 7 year old that makes her suffering of more value than that of a blastocyst (and that assumes that it makes sense to talk about the suffering of a blastocyst; I agree with Harris that it doesn’t). But if he does so, he has only moved the locus of the arbitrary valuation; he hasn’t done away with it. The arbitrariness is this: either self-awareness over the lack thereof, or suffering over against the lack thereof. In other words Harris claims that the self-awareness is of more value than the non-self-aware; or he asserts that suffering (in terms of where to expend our energies) is of more value than non-suffering. He could also assert both.

Now, one just has to wonder why Harris is permitted to make his arbitrary decision about value, but the Christian is not. As Spock would say, “Fascinating.”

I raise this issue of ethics, because it seems quite clear to me that Harris believes that people have an ethical obligation to provide evidence and arguments. That is to say, that there is a normative feature to the making of knowledge claims. If this is so, then again one has to wonder just where Harris gets off putting anyone under any moral obligation whatsoever. He would certainly object to any Christian putting him under some moral obligation.

I deny that Harris is entitled to an answer, on the grounds of his own worldview. He may complain all he wants, but he is not entitled to good evidence and valid arguments. His atheistic worldview makes it only ‘nice’, but not required. How could it be required?

Of course, the answer is that Christians must give evidence and arguments because their beliefs determine, as he puts it, what they will kill and die for. But this consideration rests upon his conviction (unjustified, in the article to which I’m responding) that there is something immoral about all this killing and dying. There may very well be, but he offers no evidence or valid arguments that it is. The Christian is under some obligation, on Harris’s view, only because Harris (and others) believe there is something wrong with all this killing and dying. Again: there may be, but he offers no justification for this belief, while at the same time demanding justification from the Christian. Fascinating.

But let’s take him seriously, at least for purposes of argument. The requirement to give good evidence and valid argument is a requirement to justify Christians’ deeply held beliefs on the basis of inductive or deductive reasoning, or both. And while it no doubt seems reasonable to Harris, not only do I deny that it is (on the grounds that he has not shown how anyone has this moral obligation) I also claim that it is problematic. Both types of reasoning are fraught with difficulty:

1. A number of difficulties are involved in an attempt to justify many Christian beliefs by resort to inductive reasoning. First, such reasoning cannot justify any tenet of Christian ethics. Ethical reasoning is properly dedcutive, unless one believes that ethical issues can be resolved by majority vote. Second, such reasoning cannot justify the most fundamental of Christian beliefs; I mean the existence of God, of course. In order for a set of facts to justify belief in God, one would some how have to explain just how one knows—having never met a god—just how any set of facts demonstrates the existence of any god or gods. Neither could inductive logic justify the claim that the Bible is the word of God. Let us imagine that every claim in the Bible were verified by scientific and historical investigation. For example, let’s say that it were demonstrated—even to an atheist’s satisfaction—that the universe is only a few millenia old. This would not tell an atheist that the universe is a creation of the God of the Bible. More than likely, it would tell him that evolution does not require as much time as previously thought. “Luck guess on Moses’s part!” he would likely say. Let us also say that it were demonstrated, again to an athiest’s satisfaction, that Jesus of Nazareth did come back to life three days after he was dead and buried. So what? Would that simple fact justify each and every Christian belief? It certainly would not tell us that God exists. The fact alone would not tell us that he died for our sins. The most it would tell us is that some law of nature which we don’t understand was in operation at the time Jesus came back to life. “Wow,” he would say, “we certainly have a lot of research to do in order to understand how that happened.” So the Christian who wants to meet Harris’s demand for ‘good’ evidence is going to find that he is on a fool’s errand.

Inductive logic also has difficulty in a different way. The problem we have is justification of knowledge claims. I’ll accept the current definition of knowledge as justifed true belief. Inductive logic might as best tell us whether we are justified in holding a belief, but it doesn’t tell us anything about the truth of the belief. Let’s say that the Bible’s narrative of creation is true. Let’s also admit that at present it seems difficult to demonstrate this. Perhaps this is just because we don’t have access to all the empirical data that we would need in order to carry off the demonstration. The Christian’s beliefs may very well be true; he just can’t demonstrate that yet. On the other hand, let’s say that in the next few decades it becomes possible—somehow—to demonstrate the truth of the Biblical creation narrative. The Christian ought to celebrate with caution: inductive reasoning can produce at best a confidence in the probable truth of his beliefs, not the proven truth. Probability is the best we can have when relying upon inductive reasoning.

2. Deductive reasoning also presents a problem. A logical gap exists between Christians and non-Christians between the differences are systemic. What I mean is that Christianity is a system of beliefs, all related to one another organically. Since I tend to believe that the Christian faith is formalizable, I also believe that it is an axiom system.

An axiom system is comprised of (1) a set of definitions {D1, D2, D3,…Dn}, (2) a set of primitive statements (i.e., axioms) {A1, A2, A3,…An}, (3) a set of rules of inference and (4) theorems {T1, T2, T3, Tn} which are derived necessarily from the application of the system’s rules of inference to the definitions and the axioms. Therefore, with respect to any system (S), a proof of any theorem T is a proof of T in S. Anyone who rejects S must necessarily reject T.

Let us say that the proposition God exists is at issue. And proof of the truth of God exists will be nothing more than a proof that the statement (specifically, in this case, a theorem) God exists is logically deduced from defintions and axioms which have had certain rules of inference applied to them. The denial of any definition or axiom must result in a denial of the statement that God exists.

This problem will also attend the attempt a demonstration of any tenet of Christian ethics. Deny the primitives of the system and you must deny the tenets of the system. It is necessary that this be so.

It probably looks as if I’ve given too much away, and Harris has us. In actuality he is in the same boat with respect to his worldview. Usually this gets overlooked because debates between theists and atheists are usually framed in terms of the law courts. The Christian is normally cast as the prosecutor; he therefore has the burden of proof. Apparently, the atheist’s position is the ‘default’ position if the Christian fails to make his case.

In actuality, non-Christian worldviews have the same burden as the Christian worldview. The law court is not a fitting analogy; in the contest of worldviews there are many parties. Mars Hill is a more fitting analogy. Philosophers and other thinkers representing a handful of worldviews are present and each makes his case against all of the others. The Christian must make his case; and so must Buddhist, Hindu, Jew, Muslim, and atheist.

And Harris’s is fraught with the same difficulties as those I just expained regarding the Christian worldview.

This is why, as Harris points out, religion is an area in which, to a certain extent, adherents’ beliefs are respected. Religious committments, even Harris’s, are understood as being pre-rational in nature. There is a logical gap between any given belief system and other.

Some system will prevail in this country. Harris claims to object to ‘religious’ systems prevailing. The fact is he doesn’t really mind if a ‘religious’ system prevails. He just wants it to be his.

In my next, and final installment on this subject I’ll deal with Harris’s criticism of Christians’ ‘unreasonable’ and immoral bioethics.
15 December 2006

I love it when a plan comes together

That was my favorite line in virtually every episode of The A-Team. Like my own repetition of it here, its use was usually ironic.

Due to 'interference' from my day job I had to get a week extension on the aforementioned deadline. Normally, my 'day job' is strictly 9 to 5 (okay it's actually 7 t0 5) and leaves me a fair amount of free time--all other things being equal.

Wouldn't you know it, though, that when you really need that free time it disappears under the onslaught of one problem after another at the old day job, requiring the taking home of work to solve those problems.

The extended deadline has been met, and the draft heads to the printer tomorrow. Then the manuscript readers will hack my sense of artistic self to bits. I'll have to remind myself that "Faithful are the wounds inflicted by one's friends."

I've already started writing the fifth draft. The trials and tribulations of perfectionism.

Maybe I can get back to some serious blogging next week. Must post the second part of my reply to Sam Harris. And I have some (more!) critiques of my brethren on the Christian Left.

06 December 2006

Not much blogging this week

I won't be blogging much this week, if at all. I'm under a deadline on a writing project and first things must come first.

About Me

James Frank Solís
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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