Wyatt's Blog (51)

Outrage Addiction

        Experience has taught us that people will often employ outrage and hyperbole, often in the form of public shaming, to convince others rather than construct a sound argument. There may be several reasons for this. The research suggests that people generally find it easier to remain in the brain's equivalent of autopilot (system 1) than to employ slow, deliberate, analytical reasoning (system 2). [See Kahneman, "Fast and slow Thinking"] It seems that system 1 is the default. It may…


Added by Wyatt on December 17, 2017 at 9:44am — 7 Comments

Letter to a religious relative

I do understand your perspective, and I have had this discussion with others of various faiths before. And I have made some observations. Perhaps you can tell me whether you think the conclusions I have come to are valid.

First, it seems that while it is not always the case, it is nevertheless often true that small, local communities are echo chambers of like-minded belief.

I think people tend to believe whatever they were raised with. If…


Added by Wyatt on June 6, 2016 at 10:23am — 1 Comment

"Ought" we to be vegan?

Zeno:  The philosopher David Hume pointed out that one can not logically deduce an "ought" from an "is."  There is nothing that we "ought" to do.  Morality is not an element in the periodic table, nor is it an objective and inalterable property of the universe.  Our morality will depend on our desires and circumstances.  If we wish to live and be happy, there are certain things that we need to do, but there is no "ought."  There is no universal cosmic code…


Added by Wyatt on January 13, 2016 at 7:14pm — 19 Comments

To the Conspiracy Theorist

The world is actually a lot more boring than you give it credit for.  People, as with electrons, seek the lowest energy state.  People generally are far too lazy to really care full time about monitoring and controlling you.  No doubt some of this goes on, but people also like to relax and enjoy a fine meal.  Can't be world-dominating all the time.  Need a break now and again.  No doubt governments try to control people, but this process is not perfect.  The world is far too messy and…


Added by Wyatt on November 24, 2015 at 1:12pm — 7 Comments

If You Were to Eat Enough Doughnuts

        By the way, speaking of matter, there is indeed a lot of space between nuclei and their companion electrons.  This means that matter is not as dense as we usually think of it, but it is quite solid because of the electrostatic force.  The electrostatic force is what keeps you from falling through your chair.  However, if you were to eat enough doughnuts, you might become massive enough to overcome the Chandrasekhar Limit, at which point your gravity would exceed electron degeneracy…


Added by Wyatt on November 24, 2015 at 1:09pm — 2 Comments

Free Enquiry

        Free enquiry is important to me.  I believe that people have a right to air their views.  I do not wish to live in a society where the state can accuse you of thought crime and silence you.  Who gets to decide what ideas constitute thought crime or for that matter who has committed thought crime?  I suggest that we should not allow the state to decide.  We must uphold freedom of speech without exception, but let us add the proviso that in those cases where one is in fact inciting to…


Added by Wyatt on October 25, 2015 at 2:50am — 5 Comments

Expert Opinion and Arguments from Authority

        It is not as a general rule irrational to place some degree of trust in expert opinion if that expert opinion is informed by the scientific method.  This is because the success of the method is irrefutable.  And to the extent that experts adhere to the scientific approach and submit their work for peer review, we may assign some credibility to their work.  If every physicist on the planet says x is true, I had better have done the research before I attempt to refute them.  We do not…


Added by Wyatt on October 25, 2015 at 2:40am — 12 Comments

Letter to a Creationist

What is so amazing about complexity? The universe has had 13.7 billion years to generate complexity somewhere in its unimaginable vastness. I would be surprised if complexity didn't arise somewhere given all that time.

But you posit an infinitely complex incomprehensible god. There is nothing simple about a personality with infinite power and knowledge. How on earth is god less mind boggling than the gradual build up of physicochemical complexity over billions of years? Random… Continue

Added by Wyatt on October 22, 2015 at 12:49pm — 13 Comments

Two Arguments for Freedom of Speech (excerpted from a talk by author Douglas Murray)

"...that, basically, the importance of having as wide agreement as possible in free speech comes down to the fact that, firstly, you may need to hear opinions you do not want to hear because you yourself may be in error.  And if you're not entirely in error, you may at least be partly in error.  And you may need to be put back on a good course.  And you may not be able to get back on a good course unless you can hear speech which some people may wish to deprive you of.

Secondly, the…


Added by Wyatt on October 18, 2015 at 1:09am — 2 Comments

Animal Rights

        Any line that we draw regarding animal rights, if it is not applied to all life universally, will be arbitrary.  Life feeds on life.  We can not sustain ourselves at present without destroying life to do so.  There is no rational argument for completely avoiding the consumption of all life.  And there is no moral argument.  The universe does not care whether people eat chickens, lions, or automobiles.  We can however come up with cogent arguments for why we would not want to deplete…


Added by Wyatt on October 18, 2015 at 12:48am — 3 Comments

Letter to a Postmodern Apologist

If you choose the broadest possible definition of religion, you will find that the soccer enthusiast and the man who believes in gods, devils, and other supernatural beasties are equally men of "religion."  We can make no meaningful distinction between them.  And yet there does appear to be something different between the two that cannot be accounted for merely by the degree of importance each assigns to an activity.  For one thing, religion can not wholly be accounted for by activities. …


Added by Wyatt on October 18, 2015 at 12:32am — 6 Comments

Can Science Tell Us What is True?

Some religious apologists will say that the fact that science "works" does not necessarily mean that it tells us anything true about the world.  It seems to me that it is impossible to ever determine with absolute certainty what is true because what we see is a model of the world created by our brains.  Moreover, the accuracy and precision of our senses even with the aid of instruments is limited.  Absolute certainty is impossible.  But this is not the standard we use to assess our world…


Added by Wyatt on November 2, 2014 at 2:40pm — 4 Comments

The Moral Machinery

How does morality evolve? We are social animals. We have language, reason, and empathy. Of course, empathy can also be found in other animals such as bonobo chimpanzees. What makes humans different from other animals is language, abstract reasoning, and the ability to plan for the future. How would a hypothetical group of humans with language, reason, and empathy plan a society? How would they need to conduct themselves to get along peaceably with one another? Before long, they will have… Continue

Added by Wyatt on March 7, 2014 at 1:55pm — 3 Comments

Good Without God is 0?

"Good Without God is 0?"

Theism as constraint on humans murdering other humans stands refuted. You could of course add the proviso that the deity in question is a "good" deity, but here is the paradox. Who defines what is good? If you are a theist, god defines what is good. The followers of Huitzilopochtli were following the good according to their deity. Who are we to judge them if we say that theism is the best grounding for objective morals? But if you don't believe all religions… Continue

Added by Wyatt on February 26, 2014 at 6:00pm — 2 Comments

How Do We Distinguish Fact from Fiction?

The scientific method has been vastly more successful at telling us what's real than the methods of religions. The reason being that imagining how the universe should be, or armchair philosophy, is no substitute for going out and taking a look at how the world is. There are a billion things I can conceive of in my imagination, but I have no reason to suppose that all or any of those things is real.

The point is that if science doesn't have any hope of ever answering a given question… Continue

Added by Wyatt on February 16, 2014 at 6:59pm — 3 Comments

Debunking God and Christianity: Unfalsifiable Hypotheses

I have said in earlier posts that one of the criteria that distinguishes science from religion and pseudoscience is falsifiability. Scientific hypotheses should be falsifiable. There should be some evidence that could theoretically disprove a given hypothesis if it were false (See Karl Popper's "Conjectures and Refutations").

The god hypothesis is unfalsifiable. There is no theoretical test that could show that the god hypothesis is false. One cannot prove the non-existence of God…


Added by Wyatt on February 7, 2014 at 1:53am — 6 Comments

The Naturalist

       Mathematician and Christian apologist Blaise Pascal famously wrote of those who were so made that they could not believe in God.  He developed his ultimately flawed "wager" to address these non-believers.  

       There are many who simply can not bring themselves to believe in the supernatural.  They can not believe in something without evidence.  Such people could be referred to as "naturalists."  But this is not to say that they necessarily adhere to the philosophy of…


Added by Wyatt on January 30, 2014 at 1:26pm — 1 Comment

Atheism is not a system of values

Atheism is not a system of values

Atheism doesn't tell you what you "ought" to do. It is simply a lack of belief. Naturalism on the other hand is an epistemological position, i.e. "I don't see evidence for the supernatural, which includes gods"

One can be an atheist and be a great humanitarian or a mass murderer. Atheism is not a system of values. My lack of belief does not inform my values in any way.

But then I am not merely an atheist any more than a Christian is…


Added by Wyatt on January 29, 2014 at 11:23am — 4 Comments

Of Tu Quoque and Atheist Stalin

Of Tu Quoque and Atheism as a Motivation for Mass Murder

The church has a long tradition of killing free-thinkers specifically for religious reasons. Pointing the finger at others will not erase this fact. But let's consider the claim that atheists "did it too." Let's consider the popular example, Stalin. Is the religious apologist's tu quoque that atheist Stalin was motivated to kill by his atheism valid? Was Stalin driven by atheism to kill not just Christians but to conduct the…


Added by Wyatt on January 29, 2014 at 8:55am — 3 Comments

Proofs of God and William Lane Craig's Failure of Imagination

The stock arguments do not prove that god exists. Recall that the conclusion of a deductively valid argument necessarily follows from the premises, but for an argument to be sound, the premises must be true. Even WLC's Kalam makes assumptions that cannot be verified. He makes several assumptions that take advantage of our cognitive biases and limited intuitions, but the history of science shows us (doesn't it?) that our middle-world intuitions are sometimes false. Galileo demonstrated that…


Added by Wyatt on January 22, 2014 at 4:29pm — 1 Comment



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