August 19-23, VU University Amsterdam
The Abraham Kuyper Center for Science and Religion at VU University Amsterdam hosts a summer seminar on science and the big questions. Experts will give lectures and engage in debates in the following areas:
* cognitive science of religion
* free will and brain research
* evolution, morality and Christian belief
* cosmology, fine-tuning, and God.
Confirmed speakers include: Patricia Churchland (UCSD), David Lahti (Queens’ College, CUNY), Rodney Holder (Cambridge), Jesse Bering (New York), Johan Braeckman (Ghent U), Herman Philipse (Utrecht U), Gijsbert van den Brink (VU University Amsterdam), Michiel van Elk (U of Amsterdam), Leon de Bruin (Radboud U / VU University Amsterdam) and Tim O’connor (Indiana U).
The seminar is intended for two groups:
(1) (PhD-)students / post-docs working in the natural sciences who have an interest in positively and intelligently relating the topics they cover in their fields of study to philosophical questions and (2) (PhD-)students / post-docs in the fields of philosophy and theology who have an interest in speaking knowledgeably about the intersection between science and religion. The goal of the seminar is to create a learning environment for (PhD-)students / post-docs in which they interact with highly qualified scholars on science / religion issues so as to move beyond the easy warfare rhetoric.
Dates: August 19-23, 2013
Location: VU University Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
Costs: The fee for the seminar is 100 euros for (PhD-)students and 200 euros for others. This fee includes lunches and dinners and some surprise social activities in the beautiful old city of Amsterdam.
Application: The seminar has room for at most have 60 participants. Please send a brief statement of interest to email@example.com by June 1, 2013.
More information and updates about speakers can be found on the seminar website:
This seminar, as well as the Kuyper Center, are made possible by a grant from the Templeton World Charity Foundation.
Consider this argument:
- If Christianity is right, every assertion of rightly interpreted Scripture is true.
- Genesis 1-3 is rightly interpreted literalistically.
- The approximate truth of our best relevant science contradicts the assertions of Genesis 1-3 when these texts are interpreted literalistically.
- Our best relevant science is approximately true.
- So, Christianity is not right.
Liberal Christians reject (1), and often (2) as well. Young Earth Creationists either engage in revisionary science and deny (3), or they simply deny (4).
The right way out of the argument is, of course, to reject (2). But in this post I want to undercut the argument in a very different way. Basically, I will argue against (3) by offering a defense–a logically possible story that is compatible with both our best science and a literalistic reading of Genesis 1-3, without scientific revisionism, scientific irrealism, or invocations of divine or demonic deception.
I am not claiming the story is true. In fact, I think it’s false. It is in tension with the Thomistic view of the soul which I hold (but I think it may be logically compatible with it). As I said, the right way out is to deny (2). My story is inspired by a hypertime story that I heard Hud Hudson give in a talk, but this version doesn’t need any hypertime.
[this is cross-posted at Newapps] Richard Dawkins has argued several times (e.g., here) that bringing up your child religiously is a form of child abuse. I think his argument that religious upbringing in general is child abuse has little merit (after all, Dawkins himself is the product of a traditional Anglican upbringing and calls himself – rather proudly – a cultural Anglican, hardly the victim of child abuse). However, his claim in the linked article is that parents who attempt to instill things like Young Earth Creationism (henceforth YEC) in their children are doing something wrong, or are somehow overstepping their role as parents. This question, I believe, is worthy of further attention.
I am pleased to announce that The Monist will be publishing a special issue later this year on philosophical issues pertaining to the cognitive science of religion. Here is the Table of Contents, with abstracts below:
The Monist 96:3 July 2013, “Naturalizing Religious Belief”
Advisory Editor: James Beebe (University at Buffalo)
Justin L. Barrett & Ian M. Church (Fuller Theological Seminary), “Should CSR Give Atheists Epistemic Assurance? On Beer-Goggles, BFFs, and Skepticism Regarding Religious Beliefs”
John Teehan (Hofstra University), “The Cognitive Bases of the Problem of Evil”
Jason Marsh (St. Olaf College), “Darwin and the Problem of Natural Nonbelief”
Steven Horst (Wesleyan University), “Notions of Intuition in the Cognitive Science of Religion”
Adam Green (Azusa Pacific University), “Cognitive Science and the Natural Knowledge of God”
Paul Draper (Purdue University) & Ryan Nichols (California State University, Fullerton), “Diagnosing Bias in Philosophy of Religion”
Konrad Talmont-Kaminski (University of Finance and Management, Warsaw), “For God and Country, Not Necessarily for Truth: The Non-Alethic Function of Superempirical Beliefs”
Robert Audi (University of Notre Dame), “The Scientific Study of Religion and the Pillars of Human Dignity”
The best naturalistic alternative to theistic explanations of fine-tuning is a multiverse where there are infinitely many variations on the constants in the laws of nature, generating infinitely many universes, such that in infinitely many of them there is life–and we only observe a universe where there is life. Typical multiverse theories are committed to:
- For any situation involving a finite number of observers, stochastically independent near-duplicates of that situation are found in infinitely many universes.
I will argue that if (1) is true, then ordinary probabilistic reasoning doesn’t work. But science is based on ordinary probabilistic reasoning, so any scientific argument that leads to the typical multiverse theories is self-defeating.
The argument that if (1) is true, then ordinary probabilistic reasoning doesn’t work is based on a thought experiment. You start by observing Jones roll a fair six-sided indeterministic die, but you don’t see how the die lands. You do, however, engage in ordinary probabilistic reasoning and assign probability 1/6 to his having rolled six.
Suddenly an angel gives you a grand vision: you see a countable infinity of Joneses, each rolling a die in a near-duplicate of the situation you just observed. You notice tiny differences between the Joneses, but each of them is rolling an approximately fair indeterministic die, and you are informed that all of these situations are stochastically independent.
As part of its spring open submission cycle, the John Templeton Foundation welcomes online funding inquiries in the areas of philosophy and theology. The submission window is February 1 to April 1, 2013. Proposed philosophical projects need not have religion or theology as a focus. To submit an online funding inquiry, please visit http://www.templeton.org/what-we-fund/our-grantmaking-process.
Please note that the Templeton Foundation does not normally provide dissertation fellowships through this open submission process. For more information on the kinds of projects that the Foundation can support, visit http://www.templeton.org/what-we-fund/core-funding-areas/science-and-the-big-questions.
A list of Foundation grants in the areas of philosophy and theology can be found here: http://www.templeton.org/what-we-fund/grant-search/results/taxonomy%3A5
The Faculty of Philosophy at VU University Amsterdam (the Netherlands) is advertising four fully funded four year Ph.D. positions in epistemology / philosophy of science.
The positions are embedded in a research project entitled ‘Science Beyond Scientism’, which aims to clarify the relations between scientific knowledge and other sources of knowledge, esp. in relation to knowledge of free will, morality, rationality, and religion.
More details the positions and information about how to apply can be found through the following link:
More background on the project is available here:
For further inquiries, please contact the project’s principal investigator, RenÃ© van Woudenberg, at firstname.lastname@example.org or +31 20 59 86678. The deadline for applications is January 2nd, 2013.
The project has been made possible by a generous grant from the Templeton World Charity Foundation.
Let me be clear from the outset: the majority of work in analytic philosophy of religion (PoR) does not aim to proselytize, but is concerned with fairly technical topics, such as the possibility of creaturely free will in heaven, the compatibility of specific divine attributes, or the evidential problem of evil. But some portion of PoR is clearly aimed at convincing the reader that religious belief (usually, Christianity, given the demographics of academic philosophy) is reasonable. To this end, philosophers construct sophisticated arguments, for instance, to show that religious belief does not require evidence, that religious faith is also, or even primarily, a matter of practical rationality, that the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of theism, etc. Plantinga and Swinburne are good examples. Such philosophy of religion can be plausibly regarded as a form of proselytism–I’m using a wider term than the usual “apologetics”, as apologetics is the more narrow notion of systematically defending a particular religious position. But I’m not entirely happy with the term proselytism either, since I also think that some of this PoR is aimed at those people who have religious faith, but who are wavering, for instance, because others tell them their faith is not rational. So I’ll settle for proselytism cum apologetics as a not entirely satisfactory term for this type of PoR. Is it acceptable for philosophers of religion to engage in proselytism/apologetics?
I’ve just re-read Paul Griffiths’ and John Wilkins’ inspiring paper on evolutionary debunking arguments (EDAs) for religion (it is a very influential paper on cognitive science of religion and evolutionary debunking, despite its not having appeared in print yet) for a chapter of a monograph I’m writing. Using Guy Kahane’s debunking genealogical framework, they argue that natural selection is an off-track process, i.e., one that does not track truth: it produces beliefs in a manner that is insensitive to the truth those beliefs. From this, they conclude that the beliefs that are the outputs of evolved systems are unjustified.
Causal premise. S’s belief that p is explained by X
Epistemic premise. X is an off-track process
Therefore, S’s belief that p is unjustified
When we apply this argument in a generalized manner, where X stands for “natural selection”, this looks like a bad strategy for the naturalist – ultimately, it leads to self-defeat in a Plantingesque manner that most proponents of EDAs would like to avoid. G&W’s position is more subtle: they don’t want to treat truth-tracking and fitness-tracking as competing explanations (as Plantinga seems to do), instead, they argue that fitness-tracking and truth-tracking operate at different explanatory levels. In many cases, tracking truth *is* the best way of tracking fitness, especially given (1) that cognition is costly (brains consume a lot of energy), (2) your beliefs influences how you will behave, (3) your behavior influences your fitness. They propose “Milvian bridges”, which link truth-tracking and fitness-tracking, in order to salvage commonsense and scientific beliefs.