Thursday, May 26, 2011

You Die and then You're Dead and Here's an Equation to Prove It

Physicist Sean M. Carroll has a recent interesting post at the Scientific American arguing that what we know about the operations of our minds makes it extremely improbable that life after death is possible. His argument is a simple one: we know that mental faculties are the product of physical interactions in the brain, so my accepting the idea that some nonphysical thing (a soul) that is "me" in any relevant sense could outlast the demise of the body would require me to reject much of what we know about physics. Dualism is false and the proposition that the soul is immortal depends on dualism, so immortality is false.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Inadequacy of Traditional Supports For Faith

In my discussion of the problem of reconciling faith with reason and empirical evidence, I set aside the issue of alternate means of support for claims of faith. In what follows I will try to analyze a cluster of related problems regarding other potential supports for faith, problems which give us reason to doubt faith can provide an alternate route to justified beliefs. The three main sources of justification that are often put forward as grounding faith claims are authority, tradition, and revelation. I'll tackle these in turn.

Dortmunder? I hardly know her!

Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold, bottle poured into a pint glass

Appearance: Nice golden color, two fingers of foam. Good lacing down the glass as I drank.

Smell: Very subtle. A little bit of citrus.

Taste: Excellent. A little bit biscuity, but with a nice hop crispness and a smooth, sweetish finish. Very complex for a lager.

Mouthfeel: Light and creamy, not heavy at all.

Overall: This is my favorite beer by Great Lakes. Really very good.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Is Faith a Virtue?

The epistemic status of faith is problematic on the face of it—to believe a proposition on faith is to believe without relying on either empirical evidence or the endorsement of reason. This much seems uncontroversial, for if reason or evidence were available to support the belief faith would be redundant. When someone claims to belief in something "on faith" they are bypassing reason and empirical evidence and asserting that they are justified in doing so. The issue I'd like to address here is twofold. One, can faith be reconciled with the demands of reason and empirical evidence? Two, if it cannot, then is faith a responsible way to form beliefs?

One way to answer this question is to say "No" to the first part and to simply assert that the dictates of faith outweigh the dictates of reason and evidence. This is the stance taken by those who claim that the world is around 6000 years, evidence of geology be damned. I'm not going to address this position here. Let it suffice to say that if you're uninterested in acknowledging that claims of faith need to be reconciled with what we know about the world, the rest of this post is not for you.