Monday, January 29, 2007

Another Confused Atheist

In his desperate attempt to restore Richard Dawkins' idiotic The God Delusion to some level of credibility, Steven Weinberg makes an exceedingly odd statement about Anselm's ontological proof of the existence of God:
From the monk Gaunilo in Anselm’s time to philosophers in our own such as J. L. Mackie and Alvin Plantinga, there is general agreement that Anselm’s proof is flawed, though they disagree about what the flaw is. My own view is that the proof is circular: it is not true that one can conceive of something than which nothing greater can be conceived unless one first assumes the existence of God.
While technically accurate in his summary of the criticism of the ontological argument, Steven Weinberg neglects to mention that Plantinga has reformulated the ontological proof in a logically near-unassailable fashion (it relies on axiom S5, which I understand has some few dissenters). But more interesting is his reason for dismissing it. Weinberg states that one must first assume God before one can conceive God. It is almost needless to point out that this makes no sense. You can't conceive something until you believe it exists? So, presumably, I can't conceive of a centaur without believing it exists? But let's be generous, and presume Weinberg doesn't mean what he appears to say. How might we understand his statement in a manner that gives some sensible meaning to it? It seems likely that Weinberg understands the existence of God to somehow allow for the "nothing greater than" clause to be coherent. If this is the case, Weinberg is implying that a metaphysical ordering of goods cannot exist without God. The irony is that atheists have long fought against the notion that objective ethics are an impossibility in atheism- but in order to hold the ontological argument at bay, Weinberg is willing to sacrifice such a possibility.

Well, it's been quite a while since I've blogged. But idiocy can prompt blogging when all else fails. Today's idiot: Steven Pinker

In Time, Prof. Pinker talks about consciousness. He begins by summarizing the "hard problem" about consciousness:
The Hard Problem is explaining how subjective experience arises from neural computation. The problem is hard because no one knows what a solution might look like or even whether it is a genuine scientific problem in the first place.
So "no one knows" if it is a scientific problem. Yet Pinker immediately contradicts himself, stating that consciousness "consist[s] entirely of physiological activity in the tissues of the brain," and continues with this facile materialism through the remainder of the article.

Of course, Pinker doesn't stop at such normal idiocy. Having misrepresented the current debate over consciousness he has the moronic temerity to attempt to propose an entirely new ethics. Pinker writes that "an understanding of the physiology of consciousness... makes it impossible to deny our common capacity to suffer." And where does the idea that suffering is to be avoided come from? If one is to avoid the naturalistic fallacy, it can only derive from metaphysics. And Pinker's just excluded metaphysics from his epistemology.