A Shot of Faith to the Head

Mitch Stokes


p vii "Science without good philosophy - distorts and stunts our growth."

p viii He went from engineering to philosophy.

p viii "Christian philosophers? Yes, and it's one of academia's most closely gaurded secrets. For the last four or five decades, these philosophers - who are enthusiastic about science - have developed powerful intellectual weapons, ones proven in the war between faith and unbelief. Many of these are alarmingly simple. Learning them is like turning an inverted picture right side up: anyone can do it, yet it makes everything look different. Everything finally fits."

Introduction, Smarter than Thou

p ix Describes atheist billboard near his home that sounded the common atheist theme: "religious believers embrace irrationality, in contrast to the atheist's careful employment of cool reason."

p ix Sam Harris in The End of Faith: "We have names for people who have many beliefs for which there is no rational justification. When their beliefs are extremely common we call them 'religious'; otherwise, they are likely to be called 'mad', 'psychotic', or 'delusional'"

Sam certainly ranks high in obnoxiousness.

p x Victor Stenger "Faith is always foolish and leads to many evils of society .. Faith is belief in the absence of supportive evidence. ... [science] is belief in the presence of supportive evidence. And reason is just the procedure by which humans ensure that their conclusions are consistent with the theory that produced them and with the data that test those conclusions."

A convenient definition of faith, but makes it clear why we don't put much faith in the philosophical ramblings of physicists, myself included.

p x "science is seen as reason incarnate, the highest manifestation of man's rational capacity."

p x Christopher Hitchens lent praise to "a small but growing group of rationalists, who reject the absurd and wicked claims of the religious and look for answers in the marvels and complexities of science."

p x Stokes' reflection: "The alleged absurdity of belief in God, coupled with the glories of scientific rationality, helps explain the atheists' frequent condescension and smarter-than-thou posturing. "

p x Richard Dawkins "What is remarkable is the polar opposition between the religiosity of the American public at large and the atheism of the intellectual elite."

p xi Daniel Dennett
"The time has come for us brights to come out of the closet. What is a bright? A bright is a person with a naturalist as opposed to a supernaturalist world view. We brights don't believe in ghosts or the Easter Bunny - or God. We disagree about many things, and hold a variety of views about morality, politics and the meaning of life, but we share a disbelief in black magic - and life after death."
[Dawkins signed on, but Hitchens called it 'cringe-making']

p xii Dawkins quotes psychologist Nicholas Humphrey who rails against parents' rights to teach religious ideas to their children, calling it child abuse. The most ominous line in his tirade is the totalitarian "And we as a society have a duty to protect them from it." But Dawkins also goes way off the deep end by saying it is arguably worse to teach children that Christianity is true than it is to violate them sexually.

p xiii Includes a Peter Hitchens quote about the totalitarian prohibition of religious teaching in the atheistic Lenin coup in Russia.

p xiii Philosophy's Religious Revolution "While atheists have been deriding the idiocy of believers, the number of professional Christian intellectuals has been on the rise." Started in the late 60s.

p xiii Time Magazine, Modernizing the Case for God. April 7,1980

p xv Discusses the fall of logical positivism.

p xv-xvi Tribute to Alvin Plantinga

p xvi Appeal to engage our doubts, with quote of Tim Keller.

"Faith without some doubts is like a human body without and antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic." The Reason for God

Part I: Belief in God is Irrational

1."Not Enough Evidence, God"

p3-5 Discusses the major influence of the Enlightenment in undermining religious faith. "On the heels of the Scientific Revolution ... saw a great light.. that would drive back the supposed darkness of religious ignorance and superstition. The light was science - or reason, actually, which makes science possible."

p 4 "Enlightenment's standard for rationality: To be rational, a belief must be supported by sufficient evidence."

p 5 If we call the above standard "Evidentialism", then its first clear statement was by John Locke, a close friend of Newton. Book: The Reasonableness of Christianity. But not everyone agreed and the reaction led to the "evidentialist objection": "Belief in God is not supported by sufficient evidence and therefore is not rational."

p6-7 Stokes discusses the extensive "natural theology", citing Anselm of Canterbury and Thomas Acquinas, but it already presumed that belief in God was rational. Cites the Protestant Reformation and the Scientific Revolution with ghe Galileo/Catholic Church scenario with shaking Europe's confidence in the "church's claim to timeless truths."

p7 In the century following Locke we find enlightenment philosopher David Hume who proclaimed about religion "A wise man ... proportions his belief to the evidence."

p8 Cites W.K. Clifford's 1877 essay "The Ethics of Belief" quotes eloquent paragraph and then Clifford's formula "it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence."

p8 "Alvin Plantinga tells a story about the time someone asked Russell what he would say if he died and found himself facing God and asked about his persistent disbelief. Russell answered, "I'd say, 'Not enough evidence God! Not enough evidence!"

p9 "Contemporary atheists, then, stand in a long line of evidentialists, a line, ironically, consisting of both believers and unbelievers. So when Sam Harris says that 'our credulity must scale with the evidence', we can see the family resemblance: he is just paraphrasing Hume."

p9 This brings us to an example of Stokes' sense of humor. He is inclined to set you up and then drop in a zinger:

Evidentialism ... is in our intellectual gene pool. It's one of the few things that believers and unbelievers agree on. It's that rare parcel of common ground."

"It's also false."

2. Does Evidence Need Evidence?

p Atheists are fond of telling us that there is no evidence for God, or not enough evidence. Hitchens: "there exists not a shred of respectable evidence" for God's existence.

p 12 David Hume "If I ask you why you believe any particular matter of fact, which you relate, you must tell me some reason." But that reason must have a reason, and so on in an infinite series. "When the great philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein said 'Explanations come to an end sometime.', he had just visited his niece and nephew."

p13-14 "If evidentialism is true, however, and all our beliefs require evidence,then so must your foundational beliefs. But this can't be right, can it? Foundational beliefs have no supporting evidence - they're the foundation. And we've already seen that we need foundational beliefs - we can't have an infinite chain .."

p14 "So if evidentialism is true, we have a serious problem - namely, all our beliefs are irrational."

p16 "So evidentialism seems to give us the wrong answer; it tells us that all of us are irrational, all of the time."

p17 "So at some point, then, we need beliefs that haven't been reasoned to at all, beliefs that are not supported by other beliefs by way of arguments. All reasoning needs a place to stand, a foundation. These foundational beliefs (for example, ordinary sense beliefs) are called basic beliefs because they're the basis for all our other beliefs. We believe them without any inference whatever. And basic beliefs are often perfectly rational."

Rationality, then, can't always require evidence; many rational beliefs are formed automatically with no inference at all.

Evidentialism is quite dead."

3. They Should Have Seen This Coming

p19 The "Humean" Condition

p19 On the death of evidentialism: "The sheer inadequacy of requiring evidence for every belief is among the Enlightenment's most valuable discoveries."

p21 "David Hume - one of the towering inspirations of contemporary atheism -conceded that we really have no good reason to believe that the world outside of us resembles the perceptual images inside us. - 'the whimsical condition of mankind' - "American philospher Willard Van Orman Quine said that the Humean condition is simply the human condition. Our senses - like us - are destined to remain within the boundary of our skin. Their limitations are ours."

p23 Thomas Reid, a contemporary of Hume"

"The sceptic asks me, Why do you believe the existence of the external object which you perceive? This belief, sir, is none of my manufacture; it came from the mint of Nature; it bears her image and superscription; and if it is not right, the fault is not mine; I ever took it upon trust, and without suspicion. Reason, says the sceptic, is the only judge of truth, and you ought to throw off every opinion and every belief that is not grounded on reason. Why, sir, should I believe the faculty of reason more than that of perception? They both came out of the same shop, and were made by the same artist; and if he puts one piece of false ware into my hands, what should hinder him from putting another.?"

p24Experience the Input

p24 Example, observe that it's snowing: "My point here is that we don't ordinarily infer beliefs like these; they're caused by experience and not by reasoning from other beliefs."

p25 What makes a belief rational?

p25 "A rational belief is one formed by a properly functioning cognitive faculty operating in the appropriate environment."

p27 "Beliefs formed by our cognitive faculties - which are usually the beliefs that we are most confident of - must be assumed rather than inferred: that is, they are basic beliefs."

4. Trust Me

p29 Typical fare from atheists is to imply that all faith is blind faith.

p29 From Hitchens: "If one must have faith to believe in something, then the likelihood of that something having truth or value is considerably diminished. The harder work of inquiry,proof, and demonstration is infinitely more rewarding, and has confronted us with findings far more 'miraculous' and 'transcendent' than any theology. "

p30 Suggests that Hitchens would say:"Believing by way of an argument is considerably more reliable than believing without one." But Stokes reply is "Naturally, that is entirely wrong. It's old news to you now that many of our most important and most reliable beliefs are held on the basis of experience, not by way of 'proofs' or 'demonstrations'. Like everyone else, scientists need noninferential basic beliefs. So lack of evidential support (i.e.,the presence of basic beliefs) isn't the difference between faith and science."

p30 Believing what you know ain't so (Mark Twain)

p31 Abraham's faith was believing what God told him.

p31 John Locke: faith is "the assent to any proposition, not thus made out by the deductions of reason, but upon the credit of the proposer, as coming from God in some extraordinary way of communicating."

p31 "Faith is believing something by way of testimony." Uses roadmap as example, textbooks, trusted witness.

p32 Taking their word for it

p33 "So, believing something by way of testimony is often and excellent thing. In fact, you and I are alive to consider the virtues of testimony because of our reliance on it."

p33 Thomas Reid "The wise author of nature hath planted in the human mind a propensity to rely upon human testimony before we can give a reason for doing so. This indeed puts our judgment almost entirely in the power of those who are about us in the first period of life; but this is necessary both to our preservation and to our improvement. If children were so framed as to pay no regard to testimony or authority, they must, in the literal sense, perish for lack of knowledge."

p34 testimony "makes possible intellectual achievement and culture; testimony is the very foundation of civilization" Plantinga, Warrant and Proper Function, p77

p34 "Not merely must we depend on testimony when learning from other people's eperience; our own experiences, like those associated with sense perception and memory, are also based on testimony."

Grow up

p35-36 Criticism of Immanuel Kant

Faith is Everywhere

p36 "Again, as Reid pointed out, to know anything about the world we must accept what our senses tell us. We can 'dare to know' only if we trust the 'testimony of our senses'(as Hume called it An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding,16). Similarly for reason, memory, and our other cognitive faculties. We simply have to take our faculties at their word.

And by taking reason and sense perception at their word, we trust their testimony. Testimony, therefore, is foundational to everything we believe. Without trusting our cognitive faculties, we could never believe anything.

Moreover, remember, believing something on the basis of testimony is faith. Therefore, faith is the starting point for all we know and believe."

Anselm of Canterbury "I believe that I may understand."

Reid "the unjust must live by faith no less than the just."

p37 Response to Stenger and his comparison of faith and science. "But Stenger's failure to realize that science, too, is based on faith (because everything we believe is, ultimately) is a massive mistake. Yet it is as common as it is colossal."

5. Darwin's Doubt

p40-41 Hume's despairing statement from his uncertainty, his agnosticism. Discussion of Hume's dilemma.

p42 Points out that the dilemma of atheism is more profound.

"Hume had no story about our origins; neither did his atheist contemporaries.But today's atheists do. They firmly believe that their cognitive faculties are the result of blind, unguided evolution. Richard Dawkins says - with and audible sigh - that Darwin finally made it possible for atheists to be intellectually fulfilled. At long last, science has provided unbelievers with a story of human origins. No more of Hume's wandering in a dark labyrinth."

"Because today's atheists have a story of our origins, they also have a story of the origins and purpose of our cognitive faculties. Our cognitive faculties are reliable because - that 'blind watchmaker,' as Dawkins calls it - fashions these faculties for our survival"

"But evolution doesn't necessarily sift for cognitive mechanisms that produce true beliefs. At least not directly."

p43 Ronald Giere "For early humans ...[their] problems were the very specific ones of doing the right things enough of the time. Thus human physical and cognitive abilities evolved together to promote appropriate actions, not to promote the discovery of anything like general truths about the world. In fact, these two goals are often in conflict. For example, given that one has to act quickly and thus on the basis of only partial information, it is usually better for long-run survival to overestimate the presence of predators and take evasive action even when it is not really necessary."

"How did creatures with the evolved physical and cognitive capabilities of contemporary humans come to create the vast body of scientific knowledge that now exists, including evolutionary theory itself?" (Naturalism in The Routledge Companion to the Philosophy of Science, ed Psillos and Curd, London:Routledge, 2008, p216)



6. Taking God for Granted

7. "Aw, Come On!" (Some Objections)

Intermission: The Art of Self-Defense

8. Let's Be Realistic

9. Starting an Argument

10. Law and Order

11. Galileo and the Needless War

12. The Lazy God

13. There's No Need to Explain

14. 100% All Natural

15. Looking for God

16. Evolution Explained?

17. The User-Friendly Universe

18. The Reluctant Supernaturalist

Part 3: Evil and Suffering Show There's No God

19. Ye Olde Problem of Evil

20. The Atheist's Problem (of Evil)

21. Conclusion: Damaged Goods
























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