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March 1, 2024

Added Causes and Reasons: The Argument from Reason and Naturalism (2024) by Miklós Szalai to the Argument from Reason page under Arguments for the Existence of a God in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.

Arguments from reason are philosophical arguments against naturalism that claim that if we held the human mind to be a physical entity, then our thinking processes would be causally determined, mechanical ones, which would then make them unreliable as guides to objective truth. Our ability to grasp the ground-consequence relation couldn’t be a material-causal power, the argument goes, but should instead be explained as the working of some sort of immaterial, spiritual entity (i.e., God, or a soul/spirit created by God). In this article, Miklós Szalai critiques this argument as it has been put forth by C. S. Lewis, Victor Reppert, Darek Barefoot, and others, ultimately defending a naturalistic analysis of the concepts of representation, truth, and inference.

New in the Kiosk: God and Horrendous Suffering (2024) by John W. Loftus

The evidential problem of horrendous suffering is one of the most powerful refutations of the theistic God as can be found: if there’s an omni-everything God, one who is omnibenevolent (or perfectly good), omniscient (or all-knowing), and omnipotent (or all-powerful), then the issue of why there is horrendous suffering in the world requires an explanation. The reason why is that a perfectly good God would want to eliminate it, an all-knowing God would know how to eliminate it, and an all-powerful God would be able to eliminate it. So the extent of horrendous suffering means that either God does not care enough to eliminate it, or God is not smart enough to eliminate it, or God is not powerful enough to eliminate it. The stubborn fact of horrendous suffering means something is wrong with God’s goodness, his knowledge, or his ability. In this paper John Loftus argues that horrendous suffering renders this omni-everything God unbelievable.

Recommended reading: Determined: A Science of Life without Free Will (2023) by Robert M. Sapolsky

Robert Sapolsky’s Determined: A Science of Life without Free Will mounts a brilliant (and delightful) full-frontal assault on the pleasant fantasy that there is some separate self telling our biology what to do. It offers a marvelous synthesis of what we know about how consciousness works—the tight weave between reason and emotion and between stimulus and response in the moment and over a life. One by one, Sapolsky tackles all the major arguments for free will and takes them out, cutting a path through the thickets of chaos and complexity science and quantum physics, as well as touching ground on some of the wilder shores of philosophy. He shows us that the history of medicine is in no small part the history of learning that fewer and fewer things are somebody’s “fault”; for example, for centuries we thought seizures were a sign of demonic possession. Yet, as Sapolsky acknowledges, it’s very hard, and at times impossible, to uncouple from our zeal to judge others and to judge ourselves. Sapolsky applies the new understanding of life beyond free will to some of our most essential questions around punishment, morality, and living well together. Ultimately, Sapolsky argues that while living our daily lives recognizing that we have no free will is going to be monumentally difficult, doing so is not going to result in anarchy, pointlessness, and existential malaise. Instead, it will make for a much more humane world.