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Oct 22, 2023·edited Oct 22, 2023Liked by Bentham's Bulldog

Great post! Thanks for sharing your thoughts about arguments for theism. To be perfectly honest, a lot of the philosophical stuff is over my head. But since you mentioned Francis Collins as a theist and brilliant mind, I thought you might be interested in hearing his story of how he became a theist. On YouTube, look up the Alpha film series, episode 1, "Is there more to life than this?". Starting at 10:15, Francis Collins shares his story.

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>>>For one to write the laws that fully describe the universe, they would have to make explicit reference to consciousness, unlike, for example, chairs. Chairs fall out of facts about atoms—consciousness does not.<<<

Wow, this seems like the best, most straightforward and concise explanation of what makes something a "natural kind" that I've ever come across!

Or am I confused about what a "natural kind" is supposed to be? 🤔

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"One view that is somewhat plausible is that simplicity depends on the length of a message required to mathematically describe some event. On this, theism doesn’t do that well."

Idk. I guess theism is just the theory that:

∃xP(x)

where P(x) = x is a perfect being.

And that's awfully short! (It's true that God will have other properties which are not logically entailed by that, e.g., believing that my cats exist and have such-and-such number of hairs. But God's perfection will ultimately explain those properties--why it that my cats exist, and God knows that they do. And what matters is the simplicity of your explanatorily fundamental posits.)

One worry for any message-length accounts of simplicity is that there needs to be some privileged way of deciding what language you're allowed to use--e.g., if I am allowed to introduce some extremely gerrymandered predicate, flying spaghetti monsteriness, which includes all the properties of the flying spaghetti monster, then I can simply describe the FSM as well. I guess someone could argue that perfection is not sufficiently natural to be appropriately used, or something. But probably the absolute worst case scenario for theism here is that we have to introduce separate predicates for omnipotence, omniscience, and omnibenevolence, which still gets you a really simple theory, as far as accounts of fundamental reality go.

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I think the equation would be much less simple if you had to actually define, in mathematical terms, just what a "being" is (as opposed to a mere "existant"), and just what is meant by "perfect".

It might seem obvious to most that a being who condemns queer people to eternal hellfire (or people who simply don't believe in the existence of said being) is far from perfect, but it's not obvious to many, many, many others. What objective facts can possibly determine this?

My point is that this " equation" seems to contain a lot of extremely ill-defined terms that require long equations of their own, as well as lots of unprovable assumptions, and isn't nearly as simple as it may seem.

Enjoyed the article nonetheless! 🙂

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As a newly formed not-an-atheist (not sure about deism vs pantheism vs traditional theism quite yet), I think the argument from morality is the best argument out there for belief in some kind of a higher power. If you accept that we can, by our intuitions, understand morals to be inherent, they need a source, in the same way that the source of physical forces is at some level subatomic particles. Being a source of morality is an important characteristic of God in at least some religious traditions. I'm sure it needs to be complicated more to hold up philosophically, especially the source of morality to god step, but it's very intuitive for a layman like me. It does have the issue that it doesn't point to a lot of traditional theist characteristics, but it does, by presenting a certain view of God as aligned with human morals, resolve at least some denominational concerns.

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I think morality, like math, logic, and modal facts is not the type of thing that could have a source--it just exists. I also don't think it can be grounded in God because of Euthyphro's dilemma.

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I quite like the Aquinas-inspired approach. I.e., it's not so much a matter of divine diktat (with its Euthyphro problem), but that we are made with a given purpose, and that in following that purpose we achieve the good life. Since God created that purpose - and created it to support His Creation's flourishing - God's teaching as it is revealed to Mankind is the best guide we have to living the flourishing good life.

Has obvious vulnerabilities to the Sharon Street critique of realist theories of moral value - I am dwelling on this issue in the back of my mind. I reckon there is a way out though - for one, I think Street uses an odd definition of realist theories in order to facilitate her conclusion.

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There might also be a route to an argument from morality by analogy with the psychophysical argument? Our moral sensations are oddly attuned to the world- we could easily imagine a world where everybody's moral instincts are at cross wires, but instead we live in one where everybody has pretty much the same morals. Or a world where the things we want are constantly in conflict with each other, rather than being mostly aligned. The argument from evolution might be a better counter here though, as evolution provides an alternate route to congruent morality.

I heard something that very vaguely resembles the psychophysical argument a while back at my church (essentially "consciousness isn't explainable by science, ergo we can invoke God, quantum mechanics weirdness yada yada yada") and it's sort of interesting but I don't exactly buy it. But if I'm understanding you correctly, it's missing the part where one argues that our conscious sensations are actually highly implausible.

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The arguments you've presented here are all for a "generic" theism i.e. one that is not associated with any particular religion. It would obviously be quite a leap to conclude anything about the truth of, say, Noah's Ark or the miracles of Jesus from anything you've said here.

And yet, whenever I hear someone advocate for theism, they are pretty much always coming at it from the perspective of a particular religious tradition. But maybe I just haven't listened to the right people. I'm curious, do any of the brilliant theist thinkers you referenced here have the generic theist view i.e. "I believe in God but don't believe / not sure about which, if any, particular religion is true"? And if not, I wonder why that is?

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I think Dustin Crummett, who has influenced me the most, is a Christian, but is more confident of theism broadly than of Christianity conditional on theism.

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Yujin Nagasawa is an important theist philosopher without any religious commitments (I think)

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The fact that the speed of light is the arbitrary seeming 186000 miles a second...isn't really arbitrary...it's the outcome of measuring it in arbitrary units. In natural units,it's 1.

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It also is explained in terms of more fundamental physics.

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It's fully explained by arbitrary units, it doesn't need another expla nation.

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...Although those fundamental physical laws, particularly their specific values relative to each other, are themselves unexplained...

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