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Category Archives: Philosophy

Episode 44: Daniel Dewey – Thinking Carefully About Artificial Intelligence

In this episode, Gabe and Dan have the opportunity to chat with Daniel Dewey about artificial intelligence (AI) and intelligence explosion. Daniel is a researcher at the Future of Humanity Institute, researching artificial intelligence, reinforcement learning, and how machines could have values.

Check out Daniel’s TEDx talk: The long-term future of AI (and what we can do about it)

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Some links to what we talked about:

The book we mentioned in the episode:

Links to other people whose cool research came up in the discussion:

Thanks for listening!

 
 

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Episode 41: Matthew Ferguson – Metaphysical Naturalism and Secular Humanism (Part 2)

We chat with Matthew Ferguson about metaphysical naturalism and secular humanism. It was a lot of fun and maddeningly interesting. This is part 2 of 2 of our discussion.

Matthew is currently a PhD student in Classics at the University of California, Irvine. He has written several scholarly papers about ancient history, and blogs about naturalism, secular humanism, and counter apologetics at his blogs Κέλσος and Civitas Humana.

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Our discussion covers…

What are arguments in favor of naturalism?

  • Teleological argument for naturalism
  • Argument from inefficient design
  • Argument from irrational suffering
  • Naturalism makes sense of the dependence of the mind on a physical brain
  • Theism is fundamentally backwards in it’s model of the universe

What are arguments against naturalism?

  • Naturalism isn’t falsifiable
  • Pragmatic argument against naturalism: naturalism doesn’t properly motivate us to be good, whereas Christianity does
  • Naturalism seems to assume that everything that exists in the universe is somehow empirically observable, which probably isn’t true
  • Naturalism offers no basis for making or justifying normative claims
  • If secular humanism is human-centric, then it is guilty of speciesism
  • Alvin Plantinga’s evolutionary argument against naturalism

What kind of world do secular humanists want to create?

  • A culture of regular self-reflection
  • Criminal justice systems using rehabilitation instead of punishment
  • Religion, it’s role in society, and how this may change over time
  • The government’s role in a transition to secular humanism

Books references in this episode:

Matthew was kind enough to provide a solar mass of really great resources for anyone interested in learning more about what we were talking about. Check them out below:

Matthew’s Blogs:

Κέλσος

Civitas Humana

Resources for Naturalism:

The Naturalistic Worldview

Defining Theism, Atheism, Supernaturalism, and Naturalism (by Matthew Ferguson)

The Secular Outpost: Arguments for Naturalism (by Jeff Lowder)

The Best Argument Against God (by Graham Oppy)

Sense and Goodness without God (by Richard Carrier)

Naturalism’s Support among Professional Philosophers:

Even If Most Scientists Are Atheist, Don’t Philosophers Come to the Rescue for God and Religion? Turns Out, No. (by Matthew Ferguson)

The Teleological Argument for Naturalism:

Finely Tuning a Killer Cosmos (by Richard Carrier)

The Fallacy of Fine Tuning: Why the Universe Is Not Designed for Us (by Victor Stenger)

Naturalism as the Best Explanation for Irrational Suffering:

The Evil-God Challenge (by Stephen Law)

Naturalism and Mind-Body Physicalism: 

The National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology: Biointerface Research Group

The Phineas Gage Case

Naturalism, Secular Humanism, and Ethics: 

Confused Metaphysics: Apologetic Efforts to Corner the Market on Ethics (by Matthew Ferguson)

Naturalism and Epistemology: 

C.S. Lewis’ Milk Jug: Apologetics and the Retreat into Epistemology (by Matthew Ferguson)

Evolutionary Naturalism, Theism, and Skepticism about the External World (by J. Wesley Robbins)

Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism Refuted (by Stephen Law)

Critical Review of Victor Reppert’s Defense of the Argument from Reason (by Richard Carrier)

Dishonest Apologetic Debate Tactics:

Southern Evangelical Seminary Tricks Bart Ehrman after a Public Debate with Mike Licona

A Response to Cliffe Knechtle’s Campus Apologetics (by Matthew Ferguson)

Counter-Apologetics:

Counter-Apologetics FAQ (by Matthew Ferguson)

 
 

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Episode 40: Matthew Ferguson – Metaphysical Naturalism and Secular Humanism (Part 1)

We chat with Matthew Ferguson about metaphysical naturalism and secular humanism. It was a lot of fun and maddeningly interesting. This is part 1 of 2 of our discussion.

Matthew is currently a PhD student in Classics at the University of California, Irvine. He has written several scholarly papers about ancient history, and blogs about naturalism, secular humanism, and counter apologetics at his blogs Κέλσος and Civitas Humana.

Listen to this episode

We discussed:

What is a worldview?

  • Comparing worldviews
  • Explanatory scope and explanatory power
  • Worldviews used as a rhetorical tool by presuppositional apologists

What are metaphysical naturalism and secular humanism?

  • What questions do each of these answer?
  • How do they fit together and compliment each other?
  • The relationship with methodological naturalism, physicalism, materialism, and atheism.
  • The role of science in our knowledge
  • Getting knowledge from science and history
  • Can a metaphysical naturalist or secular humanist be religious?
  • Making sense of minds, consciousness, shapes, numbers, propositions, and other abstract object on metaphysical naturalism

How does metaphysical naturalism compare to christian theism?

  • Eschatology
  • Rules to live by
  • Agreeing about reality
  • Authority
  • Religion, religious experience, and the evolution of agent over-detection

Books we referenced:

Matthew was kind enough to provide a metric ton of really great resources for anyone interested in learning more about what we were talking about. Check them out below:

Matthew’s Blogs:

Κέλσος

Civitas Humana

Resources for Naturalism:

The Naturalistic Worldview

Defining Theism, Atheism, Supernaturalism, and Naturalism (by Matthew Ferguson)

The Secular Outpost: Arguments for Naturalism (by Jeff Lowder)

The Best Argument Against God (by Graham Oppy)

Sense and Goodness without God (by Richard Carrier)

Naturalism’s Support among Professional Philosophers:

Even If Most Scientists Are Atheist, Don’t Philosophers Come to the Rescue for God and Religion? Turns Out, No. (by Matthew Ferguson)

The Teleological Argument for Naturalism:

Finely Tuning a Killer Cosmos (by Richard Carrier)

The Fallacy of Fine Tuning: Why the Universe Is Not Designed for Us (by Victor Stenger)

Naturalism as the Best Explanation for Irrational Suffering:

The Evil-God Challenge (by Stephen Law)

Naturalism and Mind-Body Physicalism: 

The National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology: Biointerface Research Group

The Phineas Gage Case

Naturalism, Secular Humanism, and Ethics: 

Confused Metaphysics: Apologetic Efforts to Corner the Market on Ethics (by Matthew Ferguson)

Naturalism and Epistemology: 

C.S. Lewis’ Milk Jug: Apologetics and the Retreat into Epistemology (by Matthew Ferguson)

Evolutionary Naturalism, Theism, and Skepticism about the External World (by J. Wesley Robbins)

Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism Refuted (by Stephen Law)

Critical Review of Victor Reppert’s Defense of the Argument from Reason (by Richard Carrier)

Dishonest Apologetic Debate Tactics:

Southern Evangelical Seminary Tricks Bart Ehrman after a Public Debate with Mike Licona

A Response to Cliffe Knechtle’s Campus Apologetics (by Matthew Ferguson)

Counter-Apologetics:

Counter-Apologetics FAQ (by Matthew Ferguson)

 

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Episode 35: Philosophy of Religion and Jesus v. Salem with Dr. Matt McCormick

Dr. Matt McCormick is an atheist who teaches and publishes on philosophy of religion. He joins us to talk about his experiences examining philosophical religious claims, confronting a public fear of philosophy, and to explain why if you don’t believe witches performed magic in Salem, you shouldn’t believe Jesus performed magic in Jerusalem.

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The outline of our discussion:

  • Being an atheist in the field of philosophy of religion
  • Demographics of philosophy
  • Teaching philosophy of atheism
  • Why we shouldn’t strive to be apologists for atheism
  • Dealing with a fear of philosophy
  • Salem vs Jerusalem: evidence of magic
  • Accepting a low threshold for magic, and subsequently opening the floodgates for all the other crazy magical claims: Hindu Milk Miracle, Miracles and healings performed by Joseph Smith, miraculous levitations of Joseph of Cupertino (now the patron saint of aviation and also, perhaps comically, of mental handicaps), the miracle of the sun, and on and on and on…
  • Epistemology of accepting miracle claims
  • Faults, biases, and glitches in human cognition (for more: see our other episodes about cognitive biases)
  • Dangers posed to the information age
  • Daniel Dennett’s proposal to teach a comprehensive comparative religion course.
  • The social benefits of being out as an atheist, at least if you’re mildly well-adjusted and not an axe-wielding maniac

Books referenced in the show:

Find out more about Matt, because he’s pretty awesome:

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2013 in Cognitive Bias, Guest, New Episode, Philosophy

 

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Episode 23: The Euthyphro Dilemma

A brief discussion of the Euthyphro dilemma: its history, formulations, and responses.

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Stuff neither Gabe nor Erik wrote, and consequently is way more interesting and accurate:

  • Read the entirety of The Euthyphro online, courtesy of Tufts University — which is actually not a long read. Check it out.
  • More on how the Euthyphro dilemma relates to divine command theory in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
 
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Posted by on January 13, 2013 in New Episode, Philosophy

 

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Episode 21: Ethics and Moral Decisions

I introduce my guest co-host, Josh, whom I found out upon recording is a Pantheist. Who knew? Not me, and probably not you either. But that’s fine, because we had an excellent conversation.

A popular argument for the existence of God is the moral argument, which relies on the premise that objective morals exist. We set out to explore this premise, but as soon as the expedition began our maps got soaked and then I broke the sextant while trying to play a trick on Josh.

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Have questions for Josh you want him to answer in the next episode? Post them in the comments below and your very own questions will be considered for answering!

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2012 in Guest, New Episode, Philosophy

 

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Episode 4: Pascal’s Wager

We start introducing logical fallacies by discussing the no true Scotsman fallacy.

This episode wastes most of your time with a discussion about Pascal’s Wager: a dubious bet for 350 years. Feast your eyes on the colorful diagram below!

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Pascal’s Wager diagram. Which box do you fit in?

  1. God does not exist, and you believe in Him: you are mistaken and experience finite gain or loss, depending on how your belief affects your life.
  2. God does not exist, and you do not believe in Him: congratulations for not believing in nonexistent things! Join Gabe and Erik in the orange box, where you will experience finite gain (since we’re not too bad).
  3. God exists, and you believe in Him: you’re right! Plan on heading up to heaven and getting passed the bouncer at the gates (whose name is Peter, by the way). Infinite gain!
  4. God exists, and you do not believe in Him: Oops. You didn’t believe the right things and God is pissed. Infinite loss for you.

Liked the episode? Hated it? Didn’t listen? Write your thoughts in the comment section!

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2012 in Fallacies, New Episode, Philosophy

 

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