Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Map

I've generally had a good time debating theists on the blogs. It has been frustrating at times, but it has also been educational. My online discussions have given me new philosophical insights, and helped me map out the beliefs of theists. In this post, I'm going to attempt to draw this map as I see it. Of course, there will be many theists who will disclaim some of these beliefs, but I only write of what I have encountered.

The people with whom I have debated have not been the Bible-thumpers who can do nothing but quote verses from scripture. All of my debating counterparts have shown at least some rationality, often making the next anticipated move in a debate. Yet all of them seem to stumble somewhere.

In my opinion, none of them can state their foundational assumptions. They have a constellation of beliefs, but many of those beliefs go unquestioned. Theists take many beliefs at face value as self-evident facts. That is, they fail to consider the true implications of giving up certain assumptions, and so they fail to see that those assumptions are not necessary.

Generally, my opponents have had a hard time with definitions. I'm not saying definitions are easy to keep straight, but philosophy is pointless unless you can clearly define your terms and meanings. Consequently, it is common for theists to beg the question and claim that, say, free will is defined so as to be ruled out by determinism. Yet, free will, as we experience it, has nothing to do with determinism. If "experienced free will" is not what they are talking about, then they should at least state this clearly.

I had planned to present the entire map in one post, but I find that it's too daunting a task for a single post. I'll post the points on the map one at a time, and, if I can, I'll post a diagram connecting them all.

Thus far, the topics I want to discuss are:
  • Determinism and the Principle of Sufficient Reason.
  • Free Will
  • Probability Theory: Miracles
  • Probability Theory: Superstition
  • Probability Theory: Evolution
  • Theory of Meaning
  • Arguments from Rationality
  • The Problem of Evil
  • Ontology
  • Moral Progress

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