The Expectation Of Material Causation

inductionThe following is a modified excerpt from an e-mail exchange I had with a theist over the earned position of superiority that material causes have over hypothetical immaterial causes.

Imagine back when there was far less of a precedent for material causation, say around the time of Benjamin Franklin. Imagine the conventional understanding of the phenomenon of lightning. There was no conceivable way that this phenomenon could neatly fit into the existing web of material causation that was at that time quite limited to physical objects within the exploratory reach of humans. Were not humans justified in believing that lighting was caused by a supernatural entity?

It was perhaps not until around the time of Benjamin Franklin that the expectation of wholly material causation was warranted. The precedent for material causation had indeed been strong due to discoveries by Newton and others, but I think I would have been inclined to admit the possibility that the supernatural was still a possible candidate for the explanation of lighting. This might have been reinforced by anecdotes of “sinners” who had been struck by lightning. (In fact, the catholic church had been claiming just a few centuries earlier that the actual type of sin could be ascertained by the location of the strike on the body.) There was also the biblical claim that Satan was the prince of the power of the air, a claim that also lead to the slow adaptation of the radio later on among some Christian communities.

However, through the experiments of Benjamin Franklin (though the key on a string story was almost certainly apocryphal) and others, electromagnetism was slowly teased out as a force that did indeed fit neatly into the web of material causation. This was not an overnight process. It took a host of various scientists contributing candidate theories, then modifying or abandoning those theories until electromagnetism emerged as the coherent theory we know today.

Were the incompatible material theories being debated an indication that a material theory was not forthcoming? No. Could the claims coming from the various camps of scientists have been co-opted by amateurs to claim that the concept of electromagnetism was in disarray and in decline? Yes, and they were.
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Deconstructing the Deconstruction of Dawkins

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deconstructionBelow you’ll find my critique of the arguments contained in an article written by Logan Paul Gage purporting to uncover the illogical arguments set out by Richard Dawkins, albeit indirectly through a book written by Alister McGrath. I will not address Dawkin’s arguments, nor will I comment on anything other than Alister’s own logic or lack thereof.

Deconversion Stories

The following are deconversion stories of individuals from a variety of backgrounds.

  • Youtube user DasAmericanAtheist

  • Youtube user LovingDoubt

  • Youtube user DrixDZanth. Former Evangelical Christian / Former Well-read Creationist.

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Exercise for IDers

LightsExercise: Identifying improper argumentation common to UFO theorists and Intelligent Design proponents.

Hardcore UFO theorists have co-opted and distorted science and reason to bolster their own position and agenda in the following ways.

1. The term UFO itself no longer generically means unidentified flying object, but rather has taken on the connotation of extraterrestrial beings who have stopped by for a visit. This allows mere mysterious “sightings” to be categorized through equivocation as positive evidence for extraterrestrial activity. They suggest that, anyone using the term UFO admits to “Unsolicited beings from another star with big eyes and brains who have come in plate-shaped spacecrafts to conduct biological research on humans.”

Logical Form {The term “x” means “X”.}

2. Presumably, there exist real physical evidence of a mysterious aircraft tucked away in some government warehouse in Roswell. To the hypothetical unveiling of this aircraft, UFO theorist are prepared to uncritically attach their comprehensive plug-and-play matrix of facts and explanations of extraterrestrial existence conjured up from raw imagination. Though there are contradictory explanatory theories within the set of all UFO theorists, all seek just that one piece of physical evidence that scientists cannot explain as a complete validation of their own theories. Were that piece to be revealed and to remain unexplained, they would assume that the entire construct of their respective predicated theories could then simply be snapped contingently onto that piece.

Logical Form {If “P” is exists, then “P” is “X”, and “Y” through “Z” are also true.}

3. Any humble admission by any scientist in any field that extraterrestrial beings could exist is heralded as a concession, and inappropriately taken from logical possibility to probability or at least to equal status with extraterrestrial non-existence.

Logical Form {“X” has been shown to be possible, so “X” is close to probable.}

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