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A soap opera star is a better philosopher than you

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

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Where’s your God now, William Lane Craig?

Talk at A-Soc on Intelligent Design

Sunday, May 15th, 2011


A while back I held a little talk loosely based on my Intelligent Design essay for the Leeds Atheist Society. I’ve had the video cluttering up my hard drive for a while but only now figured out how to convert and embed it, so there you go. The sound quality is shoddy and my accent is thick but hopefully I’m understandable.

If, for some unfathomable reason, you want, you can download the slides from the talk here.

Omniscience Entails Fatalism

Monday, May 9th, 2011
Captioned as "Odin disguised as a Travell...

Image via Wikipedia

Dear friend in philosophy
Thank you for your recent charming company. As you might recall from our discussion at the restaurant, I remarked glibly that omniscience entails fatalism. You, of course, disagreed with me on the grounds that God’s existence is somehow atemporal. Since informal discussions over lunch, sadly cut short by your disappearance, are less than conducive to heavy philosophy, I thought this clarification in order.

I believe I can prove my assertion. Given a few reasonable assumptions, and a particular understanding of the concepts involved, we should be able to (more…)

Theists, stop being ignorant about meta-ethics!

Sunday, April 17th, 2011

I recently watched the Notre Dame debate between Sam Harris and William Lane Craig entitled ‘Is Good from God?’ I can refute everything Craig said in just three words:

Ideal Observer Theory

Look, theists, if you want to argue that Divine Command Theory farts rainbows and brings orgasms to needy little children, knock yourselves out. But honestly, stop acting as if it were the only coherent meta-ethical theory ever devised in the history of humanity. It doesn’t make you look clever, it makes you look either ignorant or dishonest. Craig must certainly be immorally dishonest, since as a Research Professor of Philosophy he ought to know better.

No, I don’t intend to defend Ideal Observer Theory over Divine Command Theory – though I’ll recommend Michael Martin’s book ‘Atheism, Morality, and Meaning‘ for the interested – and Ideal Observer Theory isn’t even the only theory that fulfils Craig’s criteria of ‘objectivity.’ I don’t even know why we should take seriously Craig’s assertion that ‘If God doesn’t exist there can be no objective morality’ since it basically just boils down to an argument from Craig’s personal incredulity.

However, my point is that philosophical integrity demands that we ought at the very least acknowledge that there are other positions available. We don’t have to accept them. Hell, we can argue vehemently against their veracity. But the least we can do is to not pretend that there is no opposing view; no legitimate disagreement. That’s not philosophy, that’s just plain old propaganda.

For shame!


Neil Gaiman explains modal logic

Sunday, April 10th, 2011
Cover of "InterWorld"

Cover of InterWorld

I recently read InterWorld by Neil Gaiman and Michael Reaves; a book about an inter-dimensional traveller who joins a corps consisting only of alternate versions of himself preventing the forces of magic and technology from taking over the altiverse – yes, really! The book is kind of childish and I suspect I wasn’t the target audience but it did keep me thoroughly entertained from beginning to end. What I especially enjoyed about it was the setting; it was detailed and very well thought out. The technobabble, while certainly intended to be over one’s head, actually made a little bit of sense and while the setting was clearly intended only as a canvas on which to paint a cool story, the underlying world-mechanics were nevertheless sophisticated and well thought out. I’ll gladly recommend the book.

However, enough about that since this isn’t a book review. What really struck me wasn’t even in the book proper but inconspicuously hidden away at the back in an author’s note:

This is a work of fiction. Still, given an infinite number of possible worlds, it must be true on one of them. And if a story is set in infinite number of possible universes is true in one of them, then it must be true in all of them. So maybe it’s not as fictional as we think.

Quite possibly this is the best and most intuitive explanation of the counter-intuitive S5 Modal System statement that if something is possibly necessary then it is also actual.


Maybe this is beyond the pale geekery on my part but it amuses me that either Gaiman or Reaves or both are so philosophically savvy – if only by accident – that they would include sound modal logic in a science fiction novel for youngsters.

Well done, those men!

Why something rather than nothing?

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

Closer to Truth - Inwagen & O'HaraClick image for video since CtT murder kittens by disallowing embed

If you are an open atheist, presumably, at some point, some clever theist has asked you the question ‘why is there something rather than nothing?’ Depending on how uncharitable you feel, you might want to expeditiously dismiss it as an argument from ignorance. Surely no atheist’s inability to answer mind-boggling, deeply metaphysical, and possibly nonsensical questions constitutes supernatural proof. An atheist is a non-believer in gods, not a self-proclaimed encyclopaedia of recondite knowledge. Thank you very much.

However, that would be (more…)

Intelligent Design’s Abject Failure

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

I shall argue that Behe’s Irreducible Complexity fails to invalidate a proper understanding of Darwinian evolution by natural selection by considering three ways in which evolution might adequately explain seemingly irreducible complexity. I shall then argue that even granting Behe the falsity of evolution is insufficient to establish an Intelligent Designer. Lastly, I shall couple Behe with Dembski’s argument for reliable empirical indication of intelligent causation, and show this strongest version of Intelligent Design to be a fallacious argument from ignorance at worst or most charitably understood as an ultimately unwarranted inference to best explanation.


It should be noted that (more…)

What does it mean to ‘change the past’ and is it possible?

Saturday, January 15th, 2011


“I want to change the past,” Tina insisted. “What good’s a time-machine if it can’t even change the past?” The flickering lights on the head of Tina’s robot servant, Chipton, turned red in response. “Your request is irrational. The past is the set of events preceding the present. One cannot change a set while retaining its identity; it would be a different set. Your request is tantamount to a desire for an event to have happened and not happened at the same time.” Tina frowned and shook her head. “Oh, you and your cold, mechanical words! That’s most certainly not what I mean by ‘changing the past.’ I just want to live in a world where something else happened in 1921 – with a different set from ours if you will – what’s so irrational about that?”



I shall disambiguate between three meanings of (more…)

O’Reilly deserves no charity

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

…but maybe we should give him some. Now, Bill O’Reilly gives us no reason to be charitable toward his claims. He is loud-mouthed, arrogant, frequently bigoted, annoyingly interruptive, and never charitable toward his interviewees himself.  Such behaviour hardly engenders good will in people to treat him differently. This, I suspect, is the reason for the massive amounts of ridicule heaped onto him after his tide-argument for God in his interview with David Silverman:

Most notable of such ridicule is Colbert describing his position as ‘there must be a God because I don’t know how things work’ and then bringing physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson in to explain the tides.

As amusing and justified the ridicule of O’Reilly admittedly is, I doubt the man is truly so ignorant of basic scientific explanations as he’s made out. I just think he’s really bad at getting across whatever his argument happens to be. So when O’Reilly says:

Sun comes up, sun goes down. Tide comes in, tide goes out; never a miscommunication. You can’t explain that.

A more charitable interpretation, than a profession of ignorance of the motions of celestial bodies, is (more…)

Exotic Qualia, Functionalism & Martian Zombies

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

Can functionalism ever escape Exotic Qualia objections?

I shall formulate a meta-argument encompassing all Exotic Qualia problems and argue that while Lewis and Horgan might successfully escape certain guises of the problem neither eradicates it completely. I then suggest the only promising defence of functionalism therefore is a Chalmers-approach.


I take functionalism as the position that mental states are states that play a specific causal role in regards to their causes and effects, to other mental states, and to the behaviour of the individual.