Thursday, October 27, 2011

Why Not the Supernatural?

Here is a question that I want to ask all my fellow naturalists, those who believe that only the natural exists. Why is it that there are no supernatural beings? Though it may be the case that none exist, is there a reason that none exist?

I believe there are several possible answers to this question, but I'd like to hear yours. Below are some possibilities I've thought of from my readings in philosophy:

1. Spirits are logically impossible. I think it's fairly well-established that consciousness is really nothing more than an emergent phenomenon from physical stuff. If that's what consciousness is, an emergent physical property, then no non-physical entity could have consciousness. Therefore there could be no mind without a body (a spirit). Richard Carrier has suspicions towards the logical possibility of spirits as well. He writes:

[I]f God has no location, then by definition there is no location at which God exists. And if there is no location at which God exists, then God exists nowhere, which entails that God does not exist. For the proposition "there is nowhere that God exists" is literally synonymous with "God does not exist." From any intelligible definition of being, in order for anything to exist, it must exist somewhere--even if that somewhere is everywhere, or some location other than space.

2. The concept of a spirit is meaningless. This is the position held by most verificationists. They believe that any proposition that does not refer to something that is at least possibly observable is meaningless. A spirit, as a non-physical entity (as defined by believers) means nothing. Of course a statement that means nothing could not rightly be said to be true. Though verificationism is now considered passe amongst most philosophers, it still has notable proponents such as Crispin Wright, Michael Martin, Kai Nielsen, Daniel Dennett, and others.

3. An Indexical understanding of "Real" coupled with conceptual problems with Dualism renders the spiritual unreal. David Kellogg Lewis proposed the idea that the word "real" is an indexical term, and things which we call real are merely those things that we actually or potentially can interact with. Things that are not real are things that we cannot even potentially interact with.

Now remember that as I jump to a seemingly unrelated subject. How can a spirit have any effect on the physical or interact with it in any way if the two have no point of contact (a spirit, being nonphysical, cannot possibly have a point of contact with the physical)? Maybe it can't.

From those two conjectures it follows that spirits cannot be real. To be "real" a spirit has to interact with the world around us in some way. But a spirit cannot interact with the world because there is no point of contact between the two.

Now, I don't take much of the above too seriously. These all seem to me like nothing more than hunches which stand every chance of being wrong. What are your answers?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

News

Rational Responders now hosts a link to my book Atheism and Naturalism (check the book ads on the right side of the page). Thanks you guys!

The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond The Grave is now available for kindle. It's a steal at $9.99. If you're interested in the resurrection of Jesus (as mythology or otherwise) you want to own this book.

John Loftus' masterpiece The End of Christianity is also available for the kindle, at just under ten bucks. Again, if you want a brilliant and amazing collection of articles about Christianity, which range from the philosophical to the historical to the anthropological and beyond, you want a copy of this book. You want it sooooo bad.

This coming Tuesday (October 25th) marks the end of my sale for my latest book. If you want to own a copy of Selected Essays for only five dollars this is your last chance!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sunday, October 9, 2011

An Earth-Shattering Personal Story of 9/11

Dear Readers,
Please take the time to read this:

http://www.infidels.org/kiosk/article840.html

On an unrelated note, I've just seen a funny video on homosexuality that is a must watch.

Also, here is a comment I wrote to a Christian commenter on this blog which I feel is worth sharing. It talks about why atheists need to argue against religion:

I think you can understand a lot of practical considerations that atheists have for arguing their case. Imagine if you lived in a country where most people believed in Hinduism. Imagine that lots of people chose the way the voted and they way they behaved towards other people based on what was written in Hindu scriptures. Imagine that you considered some of those behaviors to be manifestly immoral. Would it not be worth your time to show that Hinduism was false (if you had good arguments to back it up)?

That's the situation we atheists feel like we're in. People believe and are teaching their kids about a horrible place called hell to instill a deep-seated fear in them. These kids will then believe that some of their best friends and people that they care about might be going there if those people do not repent before they die.

People aren't treating gays equally, something which is reinforced (if not caused) by Christian belief.

And beliefs that the end of the world is near and Jesus will soon come back may cause people not to take care of planet earth so that it will be habitable in 100 years. In fact, apocalyptic beliefs could even cause people to initiate wars, believing that the beginning of such a war will be the beginning of the apocalypse, and not something to be feared, as it is.

Now, I know you don't believe that Christianity is false, but I think you could agree that IF Christianity is in fact false, then the above are ample reason for atheists to speak out and try to change some minds.

And I don't believe it is an issue of faith. I believe that my worldview is genuinely better supported by far than any other. Just go back to my blog and read about the book I've just published. That book has plenty of info about why I believe that.

Sincerely,
Ryan

Thursday, October 6, 2011

How Atheists Can Understand Believers

It's a video by Shwanerd. In the comments section, user BlackMark52 left the following comment:

"Sorry, I cut listening to your video short, but I think you totally missed FactVsReligions message. I don't mean to offend, but you are young and naive. I have dealt with this since I was 10, I am now 60, my mother is almost 80. It has gotten to the point where when my mother calls I will not pick up the phone. The reason is that the unresolved issues of our differences in belief cannot be resolved without harm to her. I am not good for her -- and now I GET IT."

Shwanerd responded:

"I'm sorry that your situation has reached such a stalemate. My mother used to be as much of a evangelical as I was (where do you think I got it from?) but because I've been able to be honest with her over these past few years, things have gotten better. She's increasingly liberal or 'moderate' about her beliefs, and talking about religion is getting to be easier and easier with time. I can't presume to know your situation, but this video explains what has worked for me."
I too have seen changes in my mother and father since my deconversion, though that may well not be due to my deconversion.
Here's the backstory: Until I was 17 or 18, we all went to a highly conservative denomination called the Church of Christ (the exact congregation varied over the years due to a few different moves).
Shortly after I deconverted and told my parents about it, they got a divorce (again, this had nothing to do with the deconversion itself). The other church-goers, I think, were shocked. Divorce was taboo in the church of christ. People who were divorced could attend, but they were never allowed to preach or even lead songs if they had gotten remarried. My parents both stopped attending the particular church we had attended previously.
Over time, it seems that both of them had gotten remarkably more open minded and moderate. As they stepped out of the dogmatic, self-reinforcing group think of that narrow-minded denomination, they began to see with more clarity.
For example, my Dad, though still a Christian, has confessed that he does not necessarily believe that the earth is less than ten thousand years old. He said he had always had doubts about how Genesis 1 was interpreted, but never voiced those concerns as he knew this would never be accepted.
My mom, after learning more about psychology, has decided that "you can't tell homosexuals that they can never have relationships."
Christian belief does not fade when someone leaves the church. What fades is a dogmatic, self-righteous attitude about Christian belief. Without constant reassurance and assertion from other believers, without a self-assured, Only-I-Have-The-TRUTH preacher speaking every week, people become a good deal more realistic and reasonable.
That's something to think about.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

ChipIn!

Over on the right you'll see a ChipIn box. I'm trying to raise enough money to attend Center for Inquiry's "Science for Everyone!" event. If I can go I'll be sure to write an extensive blog post about it. So, if you'd like me to go, contribute a little ASAP and we can make it happen!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Price Drop!

I've decided to lower the price on my book. Click here to purchase Selected Essays for only $5!

Think of the book like a deluxe DVD edition of this blog. It's packed with never-before-seen writings, and what you saw before has often been transformed.

There's a fun skeptical chapter on why alien theories for the creation of humans, life, and the pyramids are bogus (besides common sense, there are a lot of fun scientific and historical facts that prove it is baloney!). There's a very original and fresh take on the fine-tuning argument. And in the last chapter of the book I show how a song by Jack Black disproves one of the arguments for God's existence!

Purchase it now, this discount price won't last long!