By HonestDiscussioner

Religion, Philosophy, Politics, and anything else I'd like to talk about

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Friday, February 15, 2013

Ban Islamic Clothing?

My friend Monica, Little Kropotkin on her blog and Youtube, brought up a really interesting topic that I think warrants a discussion, and that is to ask what place in our society does religiously mandated clothing (especially gender-specific clothing) have? Specifically we're talking about clothing that is to be worn in public at all times, and so that limits it mostly to the religion of Islam. Technically it's called for in Christianity, but I don't know of any denomination which actually follows that verse.

There are two questions to be asked here. The first is simple while the latter more nuanced:

1. Do these types of clothing, such as the hijab on one end or the burqua on the other, contribute to the presence of oppression against women.

2. How should modern society respond if indeed it is oppressive?

As I said, the first question is answered quite simply: Yes. Clearly mandating women cover themselves up because they are women is something that has in the past been mandated for either the express purpose or with the incidental effect of oppressing women.  Even the hijab, which is basically just a head covering that leaves the entire face uncovered, sends the message that women need to cover themselves up because they are women.

What doesn't follow from that, however, is that legal action must take place to prevent this oppression.  This is because it isn't inherently a tool for oppression. In other words, women may genuinely want to cover themselves up. To try to use legal force to prevent these clothing options pits the freedom of expression against the freedom from oppression.

It is the paradox of freedom that granting it invariably will lead to oppression in some other aspect. Here, we grant the freedom to wear whatever you want, but that invites oppression by allowing men to push women to cover themselves up in certain religions. They will convince them that it is what is best for them, and so long as they aren't being physically forced into wearing whatever costume that particular brand of religion mandates, the woman is acting upon her freedom to in this case obey. In this way, she is agreeing to be oppressed, in some situations. The only way to grant her freedom from this oppression is remove her freedom of expression. Thus the paradox.

Our idea of freedom is one that plays the long game. We allow terrible and even evil opinions to be offered and heard, with the understanding that over time only the best ones will survive. We don't remove the Westboro Baptist Church from the face of the planet because we know they will die out and to take action against them would lead to the slightly less offensive language being censored, and so on until we become the oppressors. We allow for, as long as there is no intimidation or fraud, for people to use coercion and persuasion to convince people to act against their own interests, knowing that such phenomenon will be short lived on the historical time-scale.

Luckily, we've already decided against banning these forms of clothing as a society. Only France has gone ahead with a ban. Even though it's been decided, since I never put out my official position on the matter and since Monica mentioned it I thought I'd throw in my two cents and discuss why we allow such things.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

An Ironclad Proof of Dishonesty


AngryDrunkenTheist on Youtube posted an article from Huff Post entitled: "An Iron Clad Proof of God". Well he posted it on facebook, but since I'm not doc dropping him I'm referring to him as ADT. In it, Rabbi Adam Jacobs argues that, of course, the Cosmological Argument (or the Prime Mover argument) is so dreadfully fool proof that we can basically pack it in on the "god" question. The answer is "yes, there is a god" and now we can just focus on which one.

Well I regret to inform you, but this particular defense I find to be even worse than the "Kalam" Cosmological Argument proposed by Craig et. al. Maybe on a factual level it is no worse, but it is far more arrogant and includes what is an "Iron Clad" case of dishonesty. You can read the full article here, in case you want to follow along, but here is my response to the various points:

"For instance, inasmuch as there must be an ultimate non-contingent force, its non-contingency indicates that (as held in monotheism) it must be singular, for if there were more than one mover each would be limited----and hence contingent"

I see no reason to believe this follows. The idea of multiple space-times would seem to refute this statement.

"Such a force would also need to be immaterial as material things are changeable and therefore contingent."

Again, doesn't follow. If it did, then one could not say that this universe is "part of god" in any way, nor could Jesus be allowed as this is a change in the form of God, or at addition to the form, and thus goes against this definition. Even the Jewish version of god seems to change, or at least change his mind. It's okay though, since it doesn't follow this doesn't disprove monotheism.

"Inasmuch as that would include all powers, we would conclude that this being is all powerful and all knowledgeable."

This guy's brain must have grown legs because his is quite adept at leaps in logic. There is no reason to conclude this entity, should it exist, is even conscious. All that requires of it is an ability to somehow enable a scenario in which this universe exists. That is it. It doesn't need "all powers" nor does it entail it contains any knowledge at all.

"The reality is that most versions of the argument do not depend on particular scientific claims in any way."

Of course they don't, because those scientific evidences refute the argument.

"It's not a "God of the Gaps" argument. It is not intended to plug a hole in our scientific knowledge or asserted as a "best explanation" for evidence."

Except it is. As I pointed out, there are possible conceptions that would allow for the universe to be created by itself. The concept alone shows that this is relying on their "being no other way" which is at the very least a variation on the "god of the gaps" argument.

"It seems to me that an open-minded thinker, free of biases and misconceptions, would have no choice but to acknowledge the veracity of this argument."

It seems to me that he's making an argument then running a victory lap without hearing any rebuttals, as if he couldn't have made any mistakes along the way. That's right, our Rabbi spends not merely a sentence, but an entire paragraph patting himself on the back at how awesome an irrefutable his logic is and how silly it seems that anyone could find a flaw in what he's said.

Oh but fear not! This Rabbi knows why people just don't accept his perfect logic. He'll prove it with an Iron Clad quote-mine! Yes, the final word is an out-of-context quote from Thomas Nagel, who in "The Last Word" is discussing the nature of reason itself, citing that he prefers the idea of empiricism to that which would, in his mind, lead to "platonic harmony" as an explanation for reason. Reason, he opines, makes people nervous to think that is has some sort of foundation in this manner. However, this is what the Rabbi pulls from it:

"I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn't just that I don't believe in God and, naturally, hope that I am right in my belief. It's that I hope there is no God! I don't want there to be a God; I don't want the universe to be like that."

Here's the preceding quote:

"The thought that the relation between mind and the world is something fundamental makes many people in this day and age nervous. I believe this is one manifestation of a fear of religion in which has large and often pernicious consequences for modern intellectual life."

So Nagel is in no way discussing anything to do with the cosmological argument, and this Rabbi is attempting to make it seem as though he's simply afraid to admit the veracity of it by ending the quote at "I don't want the universe to be that way". I'll admit, it's not truly an iron clad case of dishonesty (hence putting "Iron Clad" in quotes). However Rabbi Jacobs's only refuge from the label "dishonest" is a choice between lazy and ignorance. I do tend to lean towards him being dishonest, as he should be aware he could have posted that quote in response to any argument he made to make it seem like atheists are just too scared to see reason. It's an underhanded move if I've ever seen one. Claim victory and then show the poor scared atheist who clearly is just denying God out of some childish emotional hang-up.

I am truly disgusted by this display.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Not Assuming Why


So I am here to accept a criticism. AngryDrunkenTheist, or ADT, argues what I am guilty of the "wife beating" fallacy when I ask why we choose things.

You see, ADT believes in a form of agent causation, that causation flows one way from our conscious minds. And so I asked, "why did they choose that". ADT argues that my questions assumes his premise is false, just like asking "are you still beating your wife" assumes that the individual has beat their wife in the past.

So this is a valid criticism and I withdraw the question.

However . . .

I will be replacing the question with, "Is there a reason for the choice"? Now I am no longer assuming there is a "why", I am merely asking if there is one. The answer, I submit to you, is yes, there is a why and thus no such thing as agent causation. ADT even illustrates some of his own "whys". This is why I brought up the "multiple goals". Agent causation proponents will cite actions that run contrary to goals as evidence for their position, since supposedly only through freedom of will could one do such a thing. What this neglects is that people only act against their own goals when in pursuit of a more important goal. Sometimes it is protecting a loved one, or protecting their code, or even just wanting to try something new. When someone does act against their entire self interest, we generally refer to that individual as clinically insane.

As for the study, ADT asks for it but I did link the study. In both my blog and video. To be fair, I could only find the follow-up study, but it actually wound up being better than the original. What the studies did was look at MRI's while people decided whether to lift their left or right hand. This is the perfect thing, for it does not require any pesky reason, but a true choice of will. If anything would flow from agent causation, it would be this. Now it is true that they didn't get it right 100% of the time, mind you we're basically just monitoring bloodflow, but what the follow-up study showed was that the prediction became more accurate the closer to the decision it was made. Cross this with the Libet study that also showed unconscious precursors that initiated so-called free decisions and we have empirical evidence that what appears to be free choices are in fact determined and even initiated by unconscious processes. Thus there is no such thing as agent causation, your actions are just as caused as the rotations of the planets.