Humanists Should be Christians, Argues New THEOS Report

December 8, 2014

Atheists 'saw off the branch on which Humanism sits', argue the authors of a report by Theos, Britain's leading religious think tank. The Case for Christian Humanism argues we atheist humanists should be Christians (2,800 words). POSTSCRIPT: THEOS respond directly to my post below here.

 

Why should Humanists should be Christians? Here I look at the three arguments offered for that conclusion. But first...

 

What do the authors mean by ‘humanism’?

 

As those of us who campaign under the banner of ‘Humanism’ use the term, ‘Christian Humanism’ is an oxymoron. We use ‘Humanism’ to refer to a certain sort of non-religious life stance. But of course the term has other uses, including uses on which ‘Christian humanism’ is not an oxymoron. If the authors of this Theos report want to use the term in one of these other ways, that’s their prerogative. But to be clear, let’s use humanism with a small ‘h’ to mean what they mean, and Humanism with a capital ‘H’ to mean we what we mean.

 

So what do the authors of this report (Angus Ritchie and Nick Spencer) mean by ‘humanism’?  There’s some overlap with Humanism, though of course without the commitment to atheism or agnosticism. In particular, suggest the authors, there are three humanistic fundamentals: our being rational, ethical and believing in human dignity.

 

Now of course, as we all know, many Christians sign up to these things. The Theos report says Christians should sign up to them.

 

But now for their more controversial claim. The authors say only belief in God can provide a robust philosophical foundation to sustain three of humanism's most fundamental claims. The authors insist that ‘Far from being a friend to the great truths of humanism – human dignity, moral truth, reliable rationality – atheism saws through the branch on which humanism sits.’

 

What’s the argument for this conclusion? It’s worth reading the document in full here, but if you’re pressed for time, there’s a neat summary here from which I’ll quote.

 

Misleading misquotation

 

But first a quick digression. A personal gripe, in fact. On page 32 of the full report I am quoted:

 

On the British Humanist Association website, Stephen Law has written that ‘Theists use the term “faith” as a tool by which they can, quite unfairly, avoid justifying their belief and sidestep awkward atheistic arguments (“But belief in God is a matter of faith, not reason!”), to disguise the fact that atheism is far, far more reasonable than theism.’

 

The authors say my remarks typify ’a cast of mind’: that the Christian faith is incompatible with a positive view of reason, and must instead rely only on tradition, authority, revelation and faith.

 

Well that’s wrong. First off, they misquote me. The passage has been edited, with the first and last parts of the sentence removed, and a capital ‘T’ and a full stop inserted which makes it look like they haven’t (that constitutes misquotation in my book).

 

Second, it’s clear from the essay they’re quoting that I don't suppose all religious folk believe we should entirely cast reason aside and rely wholly on ‘faith’. Rather, I’m warning against sliding between different ways of using ‘faith’ – which I suggest theists are prone to do. But I clearly spell out not all theists are guilty of this like so:

 

Of course, not all theists resort to such linguistic trickery. Many try to deal honestly with the arguments and evidence.

 

Of course it would be silly to suggest all Christians suppose their belief involves eschewing all reason and relying blindly on tradition, authority and revelation (though some do).

 

Now on to their three arguments.

 

Argument 1: Belief in Human Dignity Requires Christianity

 

Why do we atheists saw off the branch on which humanism rests? The authors say about human dignity:

 

Atheist humanists tend to ground dignity in our capacity for rational thought and action.  It is the ability to direct our will to own freely-chosen ends that means that we exist as an end in ourselves and not merely as means to other ends. The problem with such arguments, however, is that they limit the range of people who can be said to possess dignity. Arguments from our capacities to our dignity exclude those human beings who have either never possessed such rationality or who have lost it (e.g. through degenerative conditions) and will not acquire it again. Indeed, by some reckonings, it even leaves out infants, even though the vast majority of them will one day acquire it. Wherever one draws the line, the fact is that when built on the foundations of our capacities, human dignity becomes relative, not absolute.

 

Well some atheists may ground dignity just in the capacity for rational thought, but there’s no official humanist position and in fact many would disagree with that account, myself included. I think being autonomous and self-directed is an important good, but it’s not the only thing about us that’s important.

 

What is true is that many Humanists consider the human/non-human species boundary of no intrinsic value. What makes individuals valuable and worthy of moral consideration are characteristics other than species membership. These characteristics no doubt include the capacity to suffer, which is one reason why we Humanists suppose other species matter morally.

 

Now obviously there are all sorts of interesting and important issues to resolve here about the extent to which we should extend rights, moral consideration, and so on to other humans and non-humans (pigs, dogs and extra-terrestrials). But the one thing we Humanists don’t do is claim we humans are all ‘special’ by virtue of our possessing some mysterious, God-given, only-theologically-revealed ‘something' - a ‘something’ the presence of which in us humans and the absence of which in other species we must accept on the say-so of the theologians.

 

Once we accept that the differences that matter re. rights, moral respect, and so on are such magical, otherwise undetectable differences, difference we can know are there only because scripture/revelation/religious tradition tell us so, then it will be theology and the theologians that determine who gets what rights, moral respect, and so on. And of course we know how reliable theology and theologians are on such matters, don 't we? Want to draw a line determing who gets certain rights and who doesn't between humans and non-humans, or men and women, or gays and straights, or black and white? You’ll be able to find a theologian willing to tell you that is indeed where God drew one of his magical lines.

 

The thought that there’s a magical, only-theologically-detectable difference between humans and non-humans that grants all and only the humans (including human embryos) a special 'dignity' requiring a special sort of moral ‘respect’ can certainly make moral judgements concerning abortion, euthanasia, etc. reassuringly simple and straightforward. We Humanists, on the other hand, consider these issues rather more complex. Because they are.

 

Notice, by the way, that to appeal to such a magical, only-theologically-detectable difference in determing rights and dignity is indeed to appeal to a difference beyond the ability of science and reason to detect, making its existence entirely a matter of ‘faith’. Which is what I thought the authors of this report wanted Christians avoid?

 

Argument 2: Objective Morality Requires Theism

 

The second argument for atheism sawing through the branch on which humanism sits runs like so:

 

Then there is morality. While few can doubt that most humanists, religious and atheistic, are genuinely committed to moral truth (as opposed to mere opinion), atheist humanists struggle to explain why humans should be able to grasp a moral truth that lies beyond our preferences. Evolution, after all, is interested in survival rather than moral truth, let alone goodness. What is good for evolution is what keeps us, or our genes, going. By contrast, Christianity offers a powerful explanation why our conscience provides a window onto moral reality.  For the Christian, we are not simply products of a blind and purposeless process. Evolutionary biology is true, but tells only how we have developed. The Christian story answers this deeper why question: we are created by a loving God, who wants us to know and love what is truly good.

 

This is standard Christian apologetics of a sort with which anyone who’s seen a Christian debater sometime during the last few decades will be familiar. Objective morality requires God! As even atheists accept objective morals exist, they should believe in God!

 

This kind of argument may be effective rhetoric, but it’s philosophically shaky. Few moral philosophers endorse it. Even many Christian philosophers reject the moral argument (e.g. Prof. Richard Swinburne: ‘I cannot see any force in an argument to the existence of God from the existence of morality.')

 

Why suppose there can be objective morality if and only if there’s a God? The argument sketched here, even in the full publication, seems to be of the evolutionary debunking variety: if our moral intuitions are merely a product of evolution, there’s no reason to think they’ll track moral truths. But this is a notoriously complex and controversial issue and few philosophers are persuaded by the argument. Philosopher Ronald Dworkin writes 'the widespread assumption that a successful Darwinian explanation of moral concern would have sceptical implications' is 'plainly mistaken'. For an excellent overview of the many issues see Guy Kahane here. There’s no attempt by the authors of the Theos report to deal with any of the many objections and counters that have been raised to such evolutionary debunking arguments.

 

Also notice, by the way, that it’s no good arguing: ‘Humanists are naturalists and naturalism cannot accommodate objective moral value’ as many Humanists (and indeed atheist philosophers), myself included, aren’t naturalists.

 

Also notice that even if it could be shown that objective moral value requires the existence of the Judeo-Christian God (and that is an enormous ‘if’), that still wouldn’t necessarily give us much reason to believe in such a God if there were (as many Humanists, myself included, suppose there is) overwhelming evidence against such a being. The correct conclusion to draw then, surely, would be that there’s no objective moral value.

 

Now that last conclusion – there is no objective moral value – might even be true. True, I’d prefer it not to be true. And I’m intuitively drawn to the thought that objective moral value exists. But intuitions can be mistaken. It struck many of us intuitively obvious that the Earth does not move. Science and reason revealed that intuition was wrong. Science and reason might reveal our intuitions about objective moral truths are unreliable too. The fact that we’d prefer it if the conclusion was not true is hardly much of a counter to such an argument.

 

But of course, as I say, the authors have not shown – indeed they’ve barely attempted to show beyond gesturing vaguely in the direction of evolutionary debunking arguments – that objective morality requires God.

 

I would have expected a piece of generously Templeton-funded research to have sought to do more than this: i.e. to have spelt out a clear argument and then attempted to deal with the many objections raised against it. This report looks less like research, more like a thin bit of Christian propaganda designed to reassure the faithful.

 

Argument 3: Reason Requires God

 

The third argument that atheism saws of the branch on which humanism sits runs like so:

 

What, finally, of humanism’s faith in reason? This is atheism’s alleged crowning glory, in contrast to the “superstition” and “irrationality” of religious belief.  In reality, however, it is atheism that cannot explain why human reason should be trusted. If our rational capacities are simply evolved to help us survive and multiply, why should we think they will also lead us to beliefs that are true, in complex areas like science, mathematics or philosophy? By contrast, Christian thought has (usually) valued reason (albeit acknowledging its limits), understanding it not as an accident but as reflection of the mind in whose image we are made.

 

Again, there’s no real argument here, just hints at some deep ‘problem’ for atheism. The full document, which references an unpublished paper by Ralph Walker*, scarcely provides more supporting argument.

 

But on the face of it, there really isn’t much of ‘problem’ here, is there? True enough, we have evolved to make many cognitive ‘short cuts’ that work for the most part but can in certain circumstances, lead us systematically astray (as Daniel Kahneman and others have pointed out). Human reason is not always to be trusted. But if the content of our beliefs and belief-forming mechanisms more generally causally impact our behaviour** then there’s good reason to think that evolution will indeed favour true-belief forming mechanisms, as has been spelt out by many, including me. Cognitive mechanisms that tend to produce false beliefs are very likely to be maladaptive – natural selection will weed them out.

 

But what of the thought that there’s no reason to expect belief forming mechanisms that have evolved to work in our local environment to work when it comes to the bigger, more abstract questions? Well here are two pretty obvious reasons to expect this.

 

First, deductive reasoning is truth-conducive. True premises guarantees a true conclusion if the argument is deductively valid. Now suppose we evolved in an environment in which rabbits and potatoes formed our staple diet. There are various rules of inference or cognitive tricks we might employ to figure out where the rabbits and potatoes are located, some of which are rabbit- and potato-specific. However, logical and mathematical rules are not potato- and rabbit-specific. They work just as well whether the subject matter is rabbits and potatoes, carrots and sheep, or galaxies and atoms. Those of us who use  truth-conducive abstract rules (e.g rules of deductive reasoning) that are not tied specifically to certain sorts of content will therefore have a huge survival advantage when our environment changes: e.g. when the rabbits and potatoes disappear to be replaced by carrots and sheep. Those using content-specific rules and tricks will probably starve, while those using the more abstract, generally truth-conducive rules will be much more likely to survive. So natural selection will indeed select for those who follow the more abstract, generally truth-conducive rules.

 

Second, science advances by the application of the scientific method. That method is not an innate product of natural selection, but an artefact which we have developed to help us deal with our cognitive unreliabilities and limitations in our search for the truth. The authors have given us given no reason to suppose that, absent God, we won’t notice that our basic cognitive tricks and methods sometimes lead us astray. But then if we come to  be interested, not just in survival, but also in truth, why wouldn't we develop and refine systems to aid us in revealing the truth by compensating for the unreliabilities and limitations of our innate cognitive systems? Even if natural selection isn’t much interested in truth but merely in survival, that’s no obstacle to our developing methods that are truth-sensitive. That's what the scientific method is.

 

I just made those two explanations up off the top of my head. They are pretty obvious explanations. What’s the matter with them? Don’t expect to find any explanation in this Theos report.

 

What’s the alternative explanation for our ability to reveal deep mathematical philosophical and scientific truths – the explanation offered by the authors of this Theos report? That there’s a God who wants us to be knowers and has the power to make it so.

 

This sort of explanation is of course handy and convenient, isn’t it? Struggling to explain x? Just posit a being b who both desires that x be the case and has the power to make x the case and bingo! that's x explained. Then run down those who reject belief in b by pointing out they have a much harder time explaining x. By such means, you might argue for gods, fairies, trolls, and Men in Black. Can’t explain why the flowers grow? The fairies love flowers, and have the power to make them bloom. Can’t explain why your keys vanished from the mantelpiece? The gremlins love stealing keys and had the opportunity and power to steal yours.

 

The God-explanation for human dignity, objective moral value, and reason is handy and convenient. It may be much handier and more convenient than available non-theistic alternatives. But then the same may be true of my gremlin explanation for the mysterious disappearance of your keys. All my gremlin explanation requires is that there be hidden beings (whom I dub ‘gremlins’) who (i) like stealing keys and (ii) had the power and opportunity to steal yours.

 

You might well ‘struggle’ to think of any plausible alternative to my gremlin explanation for the disappearance of your keys. That doesn’t make it reasonable for you to believe gremlins were responsible.

 

Similarly, while non-theists may 'struggle' to explain all sorts of things (and they're usually humble enough to admit they do), that does not, as it stands, make it reasonable for them, or you, to believe God's responsible.

 

Notes

*Ralph Walker’s paper is unpublished and may be very good. Unfortunately I have not yet been able to obtain a copy (my request to see it is pending). Nothing I say here should be taken as a criticism of that paper which may, for all I know, have been misrepresented by this Theos publication. POSTSCRIPT Ralph Walker was just kind enought to let me have sight of his paper. His challenge does seem to me to be answerable in the way I outline above.

**denied by Alvin Plantinga, who uses this thought to run his evolutionary argument against naturalism, which is a different argument to the one Ralph Walker seems to have in mind (given what’s said about his argument this Theos report). Plantinga's evolutionary argument against naturalism requires a different sort of response to that which I offer here.

 

Comments:

#1 rogercavanagh on Monday December 08, 2014 at 6:49am

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04tchvz

Nick Spencer vs Chris Grayling on BBC Radio 4 Sunday. The piece starts around 26:30.

Thanks, Stephen, for an interesting commentary on this Theos Report.

#2 Stephen Law on Monday December 08, 2014 at 6:54am

Hadn’t heard that Roger - thanks for link.

#3 Angra Mainyu on Monday December 08, 2014 at 5:19pm

Hi, Stephen

I agree with your points. I would just add two cents:

1. Even if their metaethical argument and/or the argument against reason under unguided evolution (or whatever one calls it; it looks like a variant of Plantinga’s EAAN) - which they don’t, I agree -, and even if the proper conclusion were that God exists, there would still be no good reason overall to think that God is the Christian trinity, or generally Yahweh.

In fact, I would argue that even assuming theism, Christianity ought to be rejected - and the same for any other theistic religion - after considering the matters at hand - even on moral grounds only, or on the grounds of the extremely low (i.e., beyond a reasonable doubt) probability of Christian claims such as the resurrection of Jesus, walking on water, and so on, or - even better, though unnecessary - on the combination of many different arguments.

2. Their argument against using cogntive capacity as the criterion for identifying subjects of moral rights and of our moral obligations, fails to take into consideration the mental differences between adult chimpanzees and humans (even severely handicapped ones), as well as the family and social relations that those other primates are not a part of.

I think a way to illustrate why his view is misguided is to consider a scenario of gradual changes. For example, let’s say that the remains of some other Hominids, mentally similar to Homo Erectus or Homo Floresiensis, were found frozen (like a Mammoth), and someone were to clone them.
Let’s say that genetic engineering were used to gradually change them (even if that’s immoral, the point is that it would be doable), until they end up with human-like minds, including a human moral sense, and intelligence.

Let’s say that the species are H1, H2, ..., Hn, where Hn is psychologically human (and very similar in looks).

If Rowan’s arguments were right, there would be some sort of sharp boundary in terms of their moral rights and our moral obligations not depending on their minds, nor on our own social relations. But that would be surely false.

In fact, one can argue that if they were right about human rights, it seems that there could be two entities who are mentally the same (including their capacity for moral judgments, if they have any), they also have the same powers, dispositions, etc., but nevertheless have different moral rights, regardless of social environment, and different moral obligations as well (e.g., if one has a soul of the right kind, the other doesn’t). But that’s not true.

It seems to me that in order to get out of that problem, they would have to say that if they have different souls, then their minds are different too. But then, for that matter, one could argue that those differences in minds (not some souls, regardless of whether there are some) are also the basis for different treatment of different species - that, and of course social relations.

#4 Philip Rand (Guest) on Tuesday December 09, 2014 at 12:40am

Dr Law

I imagine the reason for this THEOS research is that their exists a lacuna in Humanism that needs to filled.

Because, most critically thinking Humanists realise that there is a paradox in Humanism…that being the necessity of the “other” for it to function.

This is why though it has been credited with giving us human rights and democracy many Humanist thinkers also think it is responsible for Elitism, Sexism and even Nazism…

The link to Nazism is quite convincing when you realise that the 19th century German education system followed the ideas of Jacob Burckhardt (secular, ancient Greek oriented)...leading eventually to Hitler’s idea that the Dorian Greeks were in fact Germans!

It has always been a problem for Humanists to find a solution to this “other” problem…using Evolution Theory to base ones concepts of Good and Evil only exacerbate the problem.

Unfortunately, your paper doesn’t address this “other” issue…and that is the most important thing to address.

I would suggest that if you are a serious CFI contributor then you really should try to philosophically fill this lacuna in the Humanist system.

Most probably you will find this post opaque and not answer…but then you see you are then treating me as an “other”.

This is why the THEOS solution is the idea of “human dignity”.

#5 rogercavanagh on Tuesday December 09, 2014 at 3:16am

@Philip Rand

I have no idea what point you’re trying to make. Perhaps, if you made some attempt to reduce the opacity in your comment, the discussion might be more valuable to the rest of us.

#6 Philip Rand (Guest) on Tuesday December 09, 2014 at 4:45am

Hi rogercavanagh…

Sorry you did not get the quiddity of my post!

It’s really simple…when I write “other” I mean “other” and the fact that the Humanist model requires an “other” for it to cohere.

Here I can use an example from Dr Law’s paper:

“But to be clear, let’s use humanism with a small ‘h’ to mean what THEY mean, and Humanism with a capital ‘H’ to mean what WE mean.”

You see how he is differentiating between “right” thinking people from “wrong” thinking people?

So right off the bat we are on the path of human non-cooperation…

Now, is human cooperation a moral absolute?

#7 Stephen Law on Tuesday December 09, 2014 at 6:36am

I’m still none the wiser, Philip.

‘You see how he is differentiating between “right” thinking people from “wrong” thinking people?’

No, just pointing out two different uses of the term, both of which are fine by me. I am just trying to avoid ambiguity and confusion. You have a responsibility to do the same, please note!

#8 Stephen Law on Tuesday December 09, 2014 at 7:15am

‘It’s really simple…when I write “other” I mean “other” and the fact that the Humanist model requires an “other” for it to cohere.’

That’s not ‘really simple’, Philip. It’s ambiguous. There are at least two or three things you might mean here. It’s not our responsibility to figure out what you mean; it’s your responsibility to be clear.

#9 Francisco (Guest) on Tuesday December 09, 2014 at 11:22am

“I would have expected a piece of generously Templeton-funded research to have sought to do more than this: i.e. to have spelt out a clear argument and then attempted to deal with the many objections raised against it. This report looks less like research, more like a thin bit of Christian propaganda designed to reassure the faithful.” 

Well, this should be clear evidence that the templeton fundies goal is to promote their ideology more than promote good scholarship. Every serious scientist or scholar who takes money from the foundation should be aware that they helping in giving credibility to this kind of empty rethoric by doing so.

#10 Philip Rand (Guest) on Tuesday December 09, 2014 at 11:45pm

Dr Law

Like most ideas the underlying concepts here are complex.

How I can explain this in the most simple terms is difficult.

I shall couch the issues in evolutionary terms as this appears to be central to this debate.

It is clear from the THEOS report that they are promoting Florentine Humanism; we could say in evolutionary terms their model is “group selection”.

It is clear from what you write that you are promoting a Burckhardt form of Humanism…Burckhardt type Humanism was what Florentine Humanism evolved into in Germany in the 19th century, essentially it is “Secular Humanism”; we could say in evolutionary terms this model is “selfish-gene”.

So, on the one hand we have a “group” model of human behaviour, i.e. cooperation.

And on the other hand we have an “individual” model of human behaviour, i.e. non-cooperation.

Essentially, the Burckhardt model becomes “elitist”.

This is why you always make a point that it has been empirically proven that Atheists (the WE in your paper) are more intelligent than Believers (the THEM in your paper and what I call the other).

This is why Secular Humanism’s drive is to push out any form of religious influence, i.e. the non-elitist in society, the “other”.

This was all played out in the Kulturkampf in 19th century Germany…that eventually lead to the Nazi’s.

So, you see we all ready have an idea of what the dangers a Secular Humanist society is prone…in essence this is my “evidence” that I would use to support my assertion that Secular Humanism is legal despotism.

This post is quite general…it would require a very long dialogue to explain it fully.

#11 Philip Rand (Guest) on Wednesday December 10, 2014 at 12:10am

p.s.

I am not saying the THEOS report is saying anything new…or that I support it…in many respects it still suffers by linking itself to the idea of Humanism.

#12 rogercavanagh on Wednesday December 10, 2014 at 2:11am

Stephen,

As this discussion with Philip has clearly moved into evolution-related areas, I tried the link to the Guy Kahane paper. The link does not work (at least, on my Safari browser with Mac OS X). I found the paper by examining the link, which seems to have an extra URL at the start:

http://www.centerforinquiry.net/REF http://www.philosophy.ox.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/6931/Kahane_EDAs.pdf

#13 Stephen Law on Wednesday December 10, 2014 at 2:25am

Thanks Roger - I have fixed it.

#14 Philip Rand (Guest) on Friday December 12, 2014 at 12:40am

Another problem you have Dr Law is your Gremlin model.

Logically it does not work…and the reason is simple because the only way to set up a premise is to follow this form:

1/ The premises must be reasonably probable.

2/ The conclusion must follow clearly from the premise.

3/ Premises that are not stated must be such that they are taken for granted.

4/ The conclusion must be less probable “a priori” than the premise.

But you see you all ready “know” that gremlins don’t exist in 1/ don’t you?

And the fact that you do invalidate 4/ doesn’t it?

So, it is not a proper argument.

#15 rogercavanagh on Friday December 12, 2014 at 4:49am

Gremlins don’t exist?

People have written books about gremlins.

People have written comics about gremlins.

People have made films about gremlins.

People have used gremlins as charms to ward off bad luck.

People have made offerings to gremlins to seek their assistance.

I can’t believe gremlins are just made up.

#16 Philip Rand (Guest) on Saturday December 13, 2014 at 11:57am

Dr Law

I think Argument 3 does have some merit that should be explored, it is not as trivial as you imagine, i.e. “that atheism saws of the branch on which humanism sits”

Because, if as you say we recognise scientific objectivity as an important value in itself, and not only because it leads us to obtain results important for technical purposes, then we are dealing with the “search for truth” as an “ethical value”.

However, the problem with this is that it is not compatible with the scientistic perspective that considers empirical science to be the “only authentic source of truth”.

We cannot prove that the pursuit of truth is an ethical value using science alone; if we admit that empirical science is the only source of truth, we cannot even justify the notion that the scientific search for truth is an ethical value.

Therefore, empirical science is undervalued if we disconnect it from its metaphysical and ethical foundations.

But, here I see you have a problem because you see doing philosophy as simply doing science (I mean you did agree with Dawkins as much, i.e. Quine’s model of philosophy)...so you are a bit stuck (again this is an ethical decision on your part)

This is why I found it funny that the THEOS chap’s wish to send you a Platonist book concerning this issue…I did see the humour in their gesture…

#17 Philolinguist (Guest) on Monday December 15, 2014 at 11:25pm

Stephen Law says: “But if the content of our beliefs and belief-forming mechanisms more generally causally impact our behaviour then there’s good reason to think that evolution will indeed favour true-belief forming mechanisms…”

Not necessarily. Suppose that at some point in evolutionary history, humans were infected by parasites that manipulated the victim’s thoughts to further the parasite’s ends (From the evolutionary perspective, this is not an improbable scenario: many species are parasitical, several are known to control their victims’ brains, and at least one is suspected of altering human brain function).

Google ‘mind control parasites’. The one that affects humans is called Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii or Toxo for short).

It doesn’t matter to (and may benefit) the parasite if the induced behavior in the victim is accompanied by false beliefs, because the parasite relies on its own cognitive apparatus to produce true beliefs, so the only beliefs (regardless of truth value) it needs to generate in the victim are those that serve the parasite’s ends. Indeed, people do the same thing when they lie, they generate false beliefs in others in order to further the liar’s ends.

#18 STEPHEN LAW (Guest) on Tuesday December 16, 2014 at 3:23am

Hi Philolinguist. To work, such mental parasites need their hosts to survive, at least for a time, which requires their hosts’ cognitive faculties remain generally reliable. Widespread false belief would likely result in a quick host death, which would be counterproductive. Widespread false belief would also any case likely inhibit the ability of the organism to do what the mind parasites wants. Eg if the parasite wants the ant to climb to the top of the blade of grass, it needs the ant to believe, correctly, that there’s a blade of grass over there, that it can reach it by walking, etc. etc.[sure I know ants don’t literally believe anything, but you hopefully you get the point].

In any case, what the parasite typically induces is not a false belief, but a desire, e.g. to be with cats, climb to the top of a blade of grass, or be more sexually active. So the existence of the kind of mind parasites to which you allude doesn’t give us much reason to distrust our general cognitive faculties, so far as I can see.

If there is a God whose reasons are largely unknowable to us (so he might easily have good reasons for all the evil,we observe, say), on the other hand, well now how do we know he has not good reason systematically to deceive us? Belief in such a God looks to me rather more likely to generate sceptical problems than does evolutionary theory. But in any case I can’t see that you have come up with good reason to suppose we can trust our cognitive faculties if we know they are a product of just evolution.

#19 Philip Rand (Guest) on Tuesday December 16, 2014 at 7:12am

Well Dr Law…let’s apply Darwinian theory to your Evil God model.

Let’s say that an Evil God created the Universe…and let’s say that the Evil God wishes to always exist…he exists because humans believe in him despite the fact that he deceives them…

Unfortunately, since the Evil God is always deceiving humans…humans will not believe in him because humans will detect the Evil God’s deception…therefore the Evil God has to get even better at deceiving humans for them to believe in him…and if the Evil God get’s better and better at deception…then eventually the best way the Evil God can achieve his ends in deceiving humans is to deceive himself…which means in the end that the Evil God becomes the Good God!

#20 Stephen Law (Guest) on Tuesday December 16, 2014 at 7:43am

ps the last ‘can’ in my preceding post should have been ‘can’t’!

Philolinguist is having problems posting here so discussion has continued a bit over at

#21 Stephen Law on Tuesday December 16, 2014 at 7:49am

Here is the missing exchange between myself and philolinguist

Philolinguist said…

  Stephen Law says: “But if the content of our beliefs and belief-forming mechanisms more generally causally impact our behaviour then there’s good reason to think that evolution will indeed favour true-belief forming mechanisms…”

  Not necessarily. Suppose that at some point in evolutionary history, humans were infected by parasites that manipulated the victim’s thoughts to further the parasite’s ends (From the evolutionary perspective, this is not an improbable scenario: many species are parasitical, several are known to control their victims’ brains, and at least one is suspected of altering human brain function).

  http://io9.com/12-real-parasites-that-control-the-lives-of-their-hosts-461313366

  http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2012/12/07/can-humans-be-controlled-by-tiny-parasites

  It doesn’t matter to (and may benefit) the parasite if the induced behavior in the victim is accompanied by false beliefs, because the parasite relies on its own cognitive apparatus to produce true beliefs, so the only beliefs (regardless of truth value) it needs to generate in the victim are those that serve the parasite’s ends. Indeed, people do the same thing when they lie, they generate false beliefs in others in order to further the liar’s ends.

  Furthermore, the parasites needn’t be organic. We seem to be quickly approaching the Singularity, when the intelligence of computers will exceed that of humans. Stephen Hawking has warned that humans could end up losing control of AI. What if this has already happened, and computers have found a way to hack into our brains? This was the scenario explored in the movie ‘Matrix’.

  http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/stephen-hawking-transcendence-looks-at-the-implications-of-artificial-intelligence—but-are-we-taking-ai-seriously-enough-9313474.html

  http://youtu.be/V43t_S7VGJA
  December 14, 2014 at 7:59 AM
Philolinguist said…
  This comment has been removed by the author.
  December 16, 2014 at 12:07 PM
Stephen Law said…

  Hi Philolinguist - can you point to such a mind parasite having ever evolved (resulting in mostly false beliefs and affecting an entire population, as you are suggesting is so in our case)? I doubt you can even point to one that affects a whole population, or one that induces false beliefs as opposed to desires.

  You are now merely raising possibilities - cooking up evolutionary just-so stories as to how our beliefs could have been produced. That’s not nearly enough to generate scepticism, of course.

  As to your appeal to ‘properly basic beliefs’: such beliefs can face normative defeat (i.e. be such that, given new evidence about their basis, one should cease believing them). Discovering that someone has for all you know good reason to deceive you supplies you with a normative defeater re all your beliefs based solely on what they say. So for example, I’ll believe what Sally told me, but of course not if I discover (i) she pulled a ball from an urn containing I have no clue as to what proportion of black to white balls and (ii) if she pulled a black one she lied and otherwise told the truth. This is the situation sceptical theism puts us in re believing what God supposedly tells or reveals to us. You can no longer trust him. It is no longer reasonable for you to believe what he says/reveals.
  December 16, 2014 at 12:24 PM
Stephen Law said…

  PS even if you could point to one example of such mind parasite ticking all those boixes, which I bet you cannot, even that would not suffice to establish there was a *reasonable chance* we are victim to one. Which is what you need to generate your sceptical conslusion
  December 16, 2014 at 12:28 PM
Philolinguist said…

  Hi Stephen, the security-question thing at the CFI site is malfunctioning, so I’ll post my reply here till that’s fixed.

  Stephen Law said - “Widespread false belief would ... likely inhibit the ability of the organism to do what the mind parasites wants.”

  That depends on what the parasite wants, and it doesn’t have to want much. The parasite may well have its own (reliable) cognitive faculties intact, but lack an ability that the host possesses (e.g. mobility). Somehow, the parasite evolved to hijack the host’s brain in such a way that the former controls the latter’s movements.

  But since evolution is a random and haphazard process, instead of plugging directly into the host’s motor cortex, the parasite (perhaps unknowingly, since it may even lack intelligence) takes the indirect route of inducing all kinds of false beliefs in the host, that convince the host to go where the parasite wants to go.

  This would have a knock-on effect in the host’s brain; which has to produce more false beliefs (i.e. confabulate), to paper over the contradictions (i.e. cognitive dissonance) between a) the beliefs the parasite is inducing and b) beliefs produced by the properly-functioning parts of the host’s cognitive apparatus. As a result, the host’s cognitive faculties become generally unreliable (apart from the limited faculties required to do what the parasite wants).

  Stephen Law said - “If there is a God whose reasons are largely unknowable to us (so he might easily have good reasons for all the evil, we observe, say), on the other hand, well now how do we know he has not good reason systematically to deceive us?”

  If our cognitive faculties alone cannot give us good reason to trust our cognitive faculties, then they cannot give us good reason to believe that a loving God exists. So faith in such a God would have to be something like what Alvin Plantinga calls a ‘basic belief’, one that arises from the internal nature of those who believe, unmediated by any other beliefs.

  Of course, a basic belief could be caused by a mind-parasite. A basic belief is not an incontrovertible belief; it is a foundational belief, one that cannot be revised without revising a lot of other beliefs, and possibly ending up a quite different person (difficult to do, but not impossible). Atheists don’t lack foundational beliefs, they just have different foundational beliefs from theists. Since we’re all betting on eternity, our cognitive faculties don’t really help us in that regard.
  December 16, 2014 at 12:33 PM
Stephen Law said…

  ps my 2 responses to the above post now precede it because you deleted and reposted.
  December 16, 2014 at 12:40 PM
Philolinguist said…

  Sorry, I deleted my previous post to make a correction, and re-posted it below your reply unintentionally (so readers, pse take note).

  Stephen Law said - “Can you point to such a mind parasite having ever evolved (resulting in mostly false beliefs and affecting an entire population, as you are suggesting is so in our case)?”

  The thing about parasites is that they’re often very good at covering their tracks, so their hosts don’t even know they’re there (makes perfect sense from an evolutionary perspective, and typical of known parasite behavior).

  Besides, if most of us had the parasite, it (and the resulting beliefs) would be considered as part of our ‘normal’ constitution. The few of us who don’t have the parasite (and the accompanying beliefs) would be the ‘abnormal’ ones.

  So we can’t even prove such a parasite exists, because it simply wouldn’t fit the criteria for a ‘parasite’ by the reckoning of most people (the victims). So I couldn’t “point to one”, as you request. But I don’t have to, to make my point.

  Stephen Law said - “even if you could point to one example of such mind parasite ticking all those boxes, which I bet you cannot, even that would not suffice to establish there was a *reasonable chance* we are victim to one. Which is what you need to generate your sceptical conclusion”

  Even without producing such a parasite, I think (and I’m sure many biologists would agree) that evolutionary theory and the observed data sufficiently ‘demonstrate’ that such a parasite has a very reasonable chance of existing. Just look at the complexity and ‘ingenuity’ of evolutionary solutions to the problem of survival, including known parasites.

  Stephen Law said - “You are now merely raising possibilities - cooking up evolutionary just-so stories as to how our beliefs could have been produced. That’s not nearly enough to generate scepticism, of course.”

  If you mean it’s not enough to make most of us doubt what our cognitive faculties tell us, you’re right. But there might be a minority, previously on the fence, who see it as good reason to doubt their faculties enough to trust a little more in their conscience.

  Stephen Law said - “As to your appeal to ‘properly basic beliefs’: such beliefs can face normative defeat (i.e. be such that, given new evidence about their basis, one should cease believing them). Discovering that someone has for all you know good reason to deceive you supplies you with a normative defeater re all your beliefs based solely on what they say.”

  Not if our beliefs are not based on what anyone says. I may agree with what someone says because of my beliefs, but that’s not the same as believing what they say because they said it. If I believe ‘x’, I obviously believe that ‘x’ is true, so I can’t believe that someone is lying when he tells me ‘x’.

  If I basically believe that God is truthful, I can’t believe that he’s a liar. I can, however, believe that it is possible that there is no such God, whilst believing that there is such a God.
  December 16, 2014 at 1:26 PM
Stephen Law said…

  First off,the onus is on you to show that on evolution we have a reasonable chance of having evolved to have mostly false beliefs. You have not shown this. Pointing to the possibility of a hypothetical evolved mind-parasite that, like Descartes’ demon, systematically misleads us is not good enough. You need to show that there’s a reasonable chance such parasites exist (i) affecting beliefs not desires (which all the ones I know of do not)(ii) affecting a majority of the beliefs of the organism (ditto) (iii) affecting all, not just some, of the species in question (ditto)and (vi) which is quite likely to have affected all of us humans in that way. You have not shown even one of these things, so you can hardly claim to have shown what you need to. As I say, you’re cooking up ‘just-so- stories - possibilities, with no evidence of significant probability (and in fact there’s pretty good evidence the probability is low given you can’t supply even one example of such a parasite affecting any other species at all).

  Saying ‘But if there are mind parasites they’ll fool us into thinking they don’t exist’ is irrelevant. As I say, the onus is on you to show that there’s a real risk of us having been infected by such parasites.

  Re your appeal to a properly basic belief that God is truthful. Even if you basically believe God is truthful, sceptical theism *still* generates a normative defeater for that belief. Just as my discovery of the backstory to Sally’s assertion gives me reason to distrust her even if I previously consider my belief that she is truthful properly basic (and perhaps the belief that other people tell the truth, other things considered, is properly basic, actually). Your appeal to proper basicality does not give you the get-out-of-jail-free card that you require. Sceptical theism generates a normative defeater for all beliefs based on divine assertion/revelation, notwithstanding the supposed proper basicality of believing God is truthful.

  Your choice now seems to be: give up sceptical theism (the last, best hope of dealing with the evidential problem of evil, I suggest) or give up the thought you can reasonably believe based on divine assertion/revelation.
  December 16, 2014 at 1:55 PM

#22 Philip Rand (Guest) on Tuesday December 16, 2014 at 8:45am

Dr Law…that’s got to be the best response to one of my post’s ever!

#23 Philip Rand (Guest) on Wednesday December 17, 2014 at 5:06am

Dr Law you are missing something very important…

Let’s take your Sally example…here you say you have good prior evidence that she is out to deceive you, right?

But say, Sally not only wishes to deceive you but to continually deceive you and take advantage of you while at the same time wishing to appear “appealing” to you as she wishes to always remain in contact with you.

All you can go on is what she “says”, right?

So the next question to ask is this:  Does Sally always lie or does she nearly always lie?

If Sally always lies then this is self-defeating for Sally as she then will not appeal to you and you will break off contact with her (this is what she does not want to happen because then she won’t be able to take advantage of you).

So, the best strategy for Sally is to nearly always lie…if she does this there is a chance that you will still find her appealing and not break off contact with her, so allowing her to take advantage of you.

Let’s use your black and white ball bag shaking model for how Sally determines whether she lies or not…white she tells the truth, black she lies.

This method allows one to highlight the key insight; namely that if Sally wishes to remain appealing and continually in contact with you the distribution of white balls to black balls will increasingly become “fairer”, i.e. her lies have to get closer and closer to the truth otherwise you will break off contact. 

This process will continue with Sally, i.e. the limit between a truth and a lie will get smaller and smaller…until at the end of the process Sally will always be telling you the truth.

And this is the anomaly that defeats your Evil God model…in the end the Evil God will always tell the truth…an interesting paradox…

#24 Stephen Law (Guest) on Wednesday December 17, 2014 at 5:15am

Phillip said: “And this is the anomaly that defeats your Evil God model…in the end the Evil God will always tell the truth”

Not if what he lies about is stuff we cannot check. Which is my suggestion, of course.

#25 Philip Rand (Guest) on Wednesday December 17, 2014 at 11:18pm

Dr Law

I would say that if the Evil God ends up deceiving himself to achieve his ends…then he always tells the truth whether humans can check or not…otherwise he would not be deceiving himself!

#26 Philip Rand (Guest) on Thursday December 18, 2014 at 12:27am

Dr Law

If you follow the logic on the argument; one could say that the Evil God model is defeated…I dislike using this word though…

The reason is that if one accepts my interpretation of the Evil God model…it then means one can do even more work on it to extend it…to investigate things like “intentionality”...and even find a response to the THEOS report.

My view is that if a piece of theoretical work can be extended…it is a useful model to explore things.

#27 Stephen Law (Guest) on Thursday December 18, 2014 at 12:43am

“I would say that if the Evil God ends up deceiving himself to achieve his ends…then he always tells the truth whether humans can check or not…otherwise he would not be deceiving himself!”

Evil God will always act to maximize evil. He cannot do that by deceiving himself so he won’t.

#28 Philip Rand (Guest) on Thursday December 18, 2014 at 3:33am

Dr Law

When you say the Evil God wants to maximise Evil this also means that Good is at a minimum, right?

So the Evil God is operating on a moral landscape of Good and Evil, right?

The Evil God’s purpose is to gain as much Evil as possible, i.e. his payback, right?

The thing is the maximum of Evil and the minimum of Good will always meet at a saddle-point, i.e. a local min/max…this is always deterministic even though the interaction between humans and the Evil God is dynamic.

What my analysis of your model suggests is that the Evil God’s payback as he continually “plays” with humans will continually diminish until his payback is zero-sum, i.e. his Evil in the end gains him nothing.

And so at it’s limit the Evil God believes he is winning but in reality he isn’t…the Evil God is deceiving himself.

#29 Stephen Law (Guest) on Thursday December 18, 2014 at 3:37am

‘The thing is the maximum of Evil and the minimum of Good will always meet at a saddle-point, i.e. a local min/max…this is always deterministic even though the interaction between humans and the Evil God is dynamic.’

So far as I can tell, this is a word salad (google it). The onus is on you to explain yourself so others can understand, if you expect them to respond.

#30 Philip Rand (Guest) on Thursday December 18, 2014 at 3:54am

Dr Law…

I think it is pretty clear…a saddle-point is simply the mathematical solution (in this case) of the interaction between good and evil, i.e. a single variable, a local min/max…say the gain of Evil the Evil God obtains, i.e…. Evil Gain=max Evil/min Good.  It just makes things easier to see.

If you don’t understand something…simply ask a question…you don’t have to get all worked up about it…

#31 Stephen Law (Guest) on Thursday December 18, 2014 at 4:12am

Philip - I am just letting you know I unwilling to interrogate you repeatedly about what you mean. It’s not my job to figure out what you mean. I still have no idea what point you are trying to make here.

I’m just saying what you need to do if you want a response. If you don’t get one, you’ll know why.

#32 Philip Rand (Guest) on Thursday December 18, 2014 at 4:58am

Oh I understand Dr Law…

The liberal tactic of onus shifting…

The thing is these things are complex…I mean, I could level the same criticism’s against you…

I mean, what is “maximum evil” anyway?  You don’t define it’s essence do you?

I am charitable and I do use a meaning-holism approach.

It’s a bit like this…say you use the word “electron”...

I could say…What do mean when you say “electron”?

Do you mean the 1900 Bohr electron model?

Do you mean the 1934 Bohr electron model?

Do you mean the present day electron model?

You see same word used, but different meanings.

I mean, you set up the Evil God model, i.e. the initial conditions…all I am doing is running with the model to see it’s implications…and when you run your model with your initial conditions you get an interesting result.

If you don’t wish to explore your model that is fine with me…but it sure isn’t a scholarly approach.

#33 Philip Rand (Guest) on Thursday December 18, 2014 at 7:40am

Dr Law

The way you see your Evil God model is this:

1 The Evil God will always act to maximize evil,  i.e.deceiving humans, evidence of evil.

2 The Evil God has given humans one set of faculties to deceive them and another set of faculties to see the deception.

3 The Evil God does this because it maximizes evil.

Marvellous! 

For the whole account explains absolutely nothing, yet sounds very plausible.

The obvious thing that it does not explain is the increase in human knowledge.

But here you would say that the increase in human knowledge simply maximises evil further.

#34 Philip Rand (Guest) on Saturday December 20, 2014 at 5:05am

Dr Law

The conclusion in your model is:

1/ The existence of a Good God is true.
2/ The existence of a ¬Good God is true.

Therefore, if both the proposition and the negation of the proposition are both true; then these belief inconsistencies preclude the existence of a God.

This is the conclusion of your paper, right?

#35 Stephen Law (Guest) on Saturday December 20, 2014 at 5:38am

The paper presents a challenge - to explain why one God hypothesis is not unreasonable given the other pretty clearly is (and can be seen to be so on the basis of observation of the character of the universe, I might add).

#36 Philip Rand (Guest) on Saturday December 20, 2014 at 6:02am

Dr Law

I have no problem with the conclusions in your paper (as I mentioned, it is a good model).

I also have no problem with human observations of the character of the universe (these clearly are a given).

All I want to know is this:

Do you agree that the epistematical relationship between the Good God and the Evil God is symmetric?

i.e. probability of a Good God is 50%, probability of an Evil God is 50%

I am just trying to make the issues as simple and as clear as possible…this can be done I believe, but only by looking at the model critically at each step.

#37 Stephen Law (Guest) on Saturday December 20, 2014 at 6:47am

“Do you agree that…
probability of a Good God is 50%, probability of an Evil God is 50%”

Of course not. That would be absurd. I consider the probability of both to extremely low. My challenge is to those who consider the probability of the former fairly high (e.g. 50% ore more): why so, given the latter probability is so very low?

#38 Philip Rand (Guest) on Saturday December 20, 2014 at 10:34pm

Dr Law

It matters little what your personal views are…we are concentrating solely on your model.

So, consider the probabilities normalised…I’ll change the propositions into ones you feel comfortable with…

1/ It is reasonable to believe in a Good God=0.5
2/ It is reasonable to believe in a ¬Good God=0.5

So, the question is are these beliefs symmetric?

#39 Stephen Law (Guest) on Sunday December 21, 2014 at 2:42am

No, that’s just a misunderstanding of the argument. I never claim nor argue that the probability of a good God is 0.5.

And I notice you now introduce the NOT God God hypothesis. Is that the hypothesis that there is not an evil God? In which case the two probabilities [of evil god and of no evil god)should sum to 1, as you make yours do.

Or is it the hypothesis that there is a God who is not good? That looks more likely given you use ‘a’. But that is still not the same as the evil God hypothesis, note. There could be e.g. a deity that is neither maximally good nor maximally evil but amoral, say. I consider *that* God hypothesis somewhat less absurd than the good/evil god hypotheses, though still pretty absurd. The evidential problem of good and evil do not touch *that* hypothesis of course. Now the probabilities of the good and evil god hypotheses obviously will not sum to 1 (as we must factor in such other god hypotheses, as well as the hypotheses that there is no God at all, as also having probabilities).

Here is an analogy, as you like them. You, as a world class physicist, say: there is little reason to believe physical theory x, and if there’s little reason to believe theory x then there would seem to be little theory to believe physical theory y. In response, I say:

‘Ah so the probability of each theory is 0.5 then.’

What would be your reaction?

#40 Stephen Law (Guest) on Sunday December 21, 2014 at 2:45am

ps that should have read ‘little reason to believe theory y’ in para 4.

#41 Philip Rand (Guest) on Sunday December 21, 2014 at 4:44am

Dr Law…

I am not introducing anything different…

Clearly, ¬Good God == Evil God ...I attempted to make the propositions “look” clearer by simply using a negation that is all…if you wish to use Evil instead of ¬Good…fine by me…makes no difference.

And I did write that I normalised the probabilities…

I am just asking you are the “normalised” probabilities between the Evil God and Good God symmetric?

#42 Philip Rand (Guest) on Sunday December 21, 2014 at 4:56am

Dr Law ...

I can see why you would prefer using the word “amoral”...however, that word can only be used as an adjective….

Your model refers to “Good” and “Evil” these words can be adjectives AND nouns…so I think it is best we stay with your original model.

#43 Stephen Law on Sunday December 21, 2014 at 5:12am

Your previous comment points to a difference between words and uses it to reject one without explanation.

This is like pointing out “amoral’ contains an ‘a’ whereas ‘good’ and ‘evil’ don’t so we should avoid ‘amoral’.

#44 Stephen Law on Sunday December 21, 2014 at 5:16am

Philip, If the question you are attempting to ask is: do I consider the good and evil god hypotheses to be equally probable, the answer is: not exactly, but I consider both probabilities very low. So yes ‘symmetric’ in that loose sense.

#45 Philip Rand (Guest) on Sunday December 21, 2014 at 5:21am

Dr Law

It doesn’t matter really in the end Dr Law…whether one uses amoral or moral or Good or Evil or whatever the characteristics of either God…the result will always be the same…as you seem to be becoming aware…

I was just trying to make it easier for you…as your paper concerns Good and Evil…

I just what to know if there is any discerning evidential difference a human can make between the Good God, the Evil God, the moral God, the amoral God…

#46 Stephen Law on Sunday December 21, 2014 at 6:01am

Phillip. All I am ‘becoming aware of’ is that, no matter how many times I explain the evil God challenge, you never, ever seem to understand it. It’s baffling. You misinterpret it every time by, for example, suggesting I think the prob of the evil and good god hypotheses is in each case 0.5. This is just so obviously not the case that I am scratching my head in bewilderment that you would even suggest it.

I have to admit that your repeatedly saying such silly things has, in the past, led me to question whether you really are, as you claim to be, a scientist. In fact I’ll admit to wondering whether you are not just some sort of intellectual poseur or low-level troll. I no longer think that actually, given you at least appear to have access to a scientific establishment’s email server. But you are, let me tell you, the weirdest commentator I have ever come across!

Anyhoo, to attempt to answer your last still-not-terribly-clear question: the balance of good/evil in the world is evidence against the good and evil god hypotheses to a more or less equal degree, but not against the amoral god (god lacking moral properties) hypothesis. So the latter god hypothesis is less evidentialy challenged.

#47 Philip Rand (Guest) on Monday December 22, 2014 at 12:30am

And Dr Law

For your model to work the evidence of a Good God and an Evil God HAS to be symmetric, i.e. one can’t tell which God exists…this is so trivial I cannot believe you can’t see this!!!!

Philip Rand:  Is your Good and Evil God model symmetric?

Stephen Law:  Do I consider the good and evil god hypotheses to be equally probable, the answer is: not exactly, but I consider both probabilities very low. So yes ‘symmetric’ in that loose sense.

Now this is word salad (google it)...actually the whole statement is completely meaningless, i.e. Bullshit (but then you wrote the book).

And really Dr Law accusing me of trolling and the such, etc.!!!!!

And you really should keep things simple and clear…when we are dealing with Good and Evil we are dealing with “intentionality”...when we deal with the moral and amoral we are dealing with “context”  AND “intentionality”...the moral, amoral God model is just as challenged as the Good and Evil God model…it’s just that in the moral or amoral God model we are dealing with two variables (intention, and context)...while in the Evil and Good God model we are dealing with one variable (intention)...the moral and amoral God model is just more complicated…this is why you have difficulty in seeing the resemblance to the Evil and Good God model…it requires much more critical thinking.

And you may doubt my scientific credentials but at least I don’t affect the dress of Wittgenstein (the boots are a dead giveaway).

I give up on you…you definitely are made of the material to be a Professor of Divinity!

#48 Philip Rand (Guest) on Monday December 22, 2014 at 1:26am

Dr Law

I forgot, you will not understand “context”, i.e. moral context…again the concept is simple.

Example:

You are a white-rhino environmentalist…you wish to maintain the existence of the species.  The species is nearly extinct.  You create a protected park for the species.  After a time the white-rhino population increases in the park.  You then decide to sell licenses for people to kill some of the protected white-rhino’s…this will give you a lot of money…so allowing you to increase the park size and therefore allow the white-rhino population to increase further, i.e. ensuring their existence.

This is moral context…this is why though you believe the moral model is different to the Evil God model…they both are in fact equivalent.

#49 Stephen Law (Guest) on Monday December 22, 2014 at 6:51am

Yes let’s do give up on this Philip. BTW did you get my direct email?

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