Monday, June 25, 2018

Hobbies: Instagram and FanFiction

It's been a long time since I've posted anything about my hobbies. I deleted my photobucket account a while back, but I've been posting pictures of my knives (did I mention I make knives?) on my Instagram account. There's some other stuff on there, too.

I decided to try my hand at writing a fan fiction. The reason I did this is because when I was younger, I used to start writing stories or books, but I would never finished them. Well, my daughter took to doing the same thing, and I wanted to encourage her to finish. So I thought if I finished one, it would encourage her. Well, the opposite happened. My daughter finished hers before I finished mine. That motivated me, so I went ahead and finished a story I started writing a few years ago.

It's a Harry Potter crossover with Pushing Daisies, and it also has a little Star Wars and Doctor Who. After finishing the story the other day, I posted it on I plan on posting it on one other site. I call it Harry Potter and the Pie Maker. It has some philosophy in there. If you decide to read it please leave a comment. This is the first piece of fiction I've ever finished, and I'm curious what people will think. There are lots of references, allusions, and inside jokes that I don't expect everybody will get, but it'll make my day if they do.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

A quick and dirty argument against abortion

I've had this on-going struggle to be succinct because if you're not succinct, then people won't listen to you. Sometimes you have to gut an argument to be succinct, so the struggle to is say the most with the fewest words. With that in mind, here's my quick and dirty defense of the unborn. There's nothing new here--it's all Scott Klusendorf-ish--but hopefully it's nice and tidy.

I think abortion should be illegal because it's a serious moral wrong, and I think it's a serious moral wrong because it takes the life of an innocent human being, usually without justification.

The whole abortion debate hinges on one question: What is the unborn? Most of the justifications pro choice people give for why abortion should be legal are question-begging because they only work under the assumption that the unborn is not an innocent human being. For example, they say it could spare the child pain or suffering later on in life. But nobody would use that to justify killing a two year old because the two year old is an innocent human being. Well, if the unborn is an innocent human being just like the two year old, then the possibility of future suffering is not a sufficient justification of killing the unborn either.

Here's another argument I heard just today: Abortions are going to happen whether they are legal or not, so they should be legal. But people do, in fact, kill their children from time to time. Remember Andrea Yates who drown her kids in the bathtub? So here's a parallel argument: Parents are going to kill their children whether it's legal or not; therefore, it should be legal for parents to kill their children. But obviously none of us would accept such a crazy argument because we all agree that children are innocent human beings. Well, if the unborn are innocent human beings, then this argument doesn't justify abortion either.

And you can run this argument through with most other pro-choice argumenst. Just ask yourself, "Is it okay to kill a two year old for the same reason?" If not, then it doesn't justify abortion unless the unborn are not innocent human beings.

But the fact that the unborn are innocent human beings is obvious. They are human because their parents are human, they have human DNA, and they are going through the stages of human development. They are alive because they are growing, they are using energy (i.e. metabolizing), and their cells are dividing. There's no question that they are living humans. They are also distinct from their mothers. What i mean is that they are not appendages of their mothers, like arms, legs, or organs, which are human parts. They are whole distinct human beings which is evident in the fact that they have unique DNA distinct from both of their parents, that some of them have penises even though the mother is still female, and the fact that if allowed to, they will go through every stage of human development. Each of us began as an embryo. That object that used to be inside the womb is the same object as the one that later was outside of the womb. It's the same entity. The only difference is its location and its level of development.

Location (inside or outside the womb) isn't what makes something a human being either. It's the same thing regardless of its location. Consider a surgeon who has to temporarily remove a fetus from a womb, then put it back again. Are we to believe it was non-human, then became human, then ceased to be a human again once placed back in? This is not a mere thought experiment. Surgeries like this do take place.

Viability isn't what makes something human either. Whether a fetus can survive outside the womb is a matter of technology. But surely advances in technology do not turn something that is not human into something that is human. So the fact that somebody is dependent on either a mother or a machine to stay alive has nothing at all to do with whether it's a human being or not. Many adults depend on machines for their survival. If there were a medical procedure in which they could be hooked up to another human instead of a machine to accomplish the same thing, they wouldn't for that reason cease to be human beings.

The only argument the pro-choice side has that makes any sense at all is bodily sovereignty arguments. Some argue that even if the unborn are innocent human beings, the mother still has the right to have an abortion because she has the right to say who can and can't use her body to stay alive. This argument has some weight, but I don't think a woman's right to bodily sovereignty outweighs the unborn's right to life for three reasons.

First, we are not talking about a stranger here. We're talking about the woman's own young. Mothers have an obligation to their own young that they don't have to strangers.

Second, the right to bodily sovereignty is not absolute. Suppose a woman's sole means of feeding her baby was breast-feeding. But she refused on the basis that the baby doesn't have the right to use her body. Would we not think she was a moral monster for intentionally starving her baby to death just because it was her boob?

Third, the right to bodily sovereignty is contingent on the right to life. The right to life is the most fundamental right because all other rights are contingent on you being alive.

So for all these reasons, i think abortion is immoral, and that it ought to be illegal.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Using the Bible to prove the Bible

It would seem like there's something circular about pointing to various passages in the Bible to prove that the Bible is the infallible word of God. Take these passages for instance.

John 10:35 "If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken). . ."

2 Timothy 3:16 "All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness. . ."

2 Peter 1:20-21 "But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God."

Why should we believe that these passages are true? Because they're in the Bible. And why should we think the Bible is accurate? Because these passages say so. So the Bible is true because the Bible says it's true.

Well, that's obviously problematic. It doesn't have to be, though. Consider my imaginary friend, Bob. Bob is a pretty reliable guy. At least 90% of what Bob says is true. The other 10% may or may not be true. Who knows? Well, one day, Bob said, "100% of what I say is true." If we were going on statistics alone, and not considering the particularity of this kind of statement, we'd have to assign the statement a 90% chance of being true. That means there's a 90% chance that Bob is 100% correct in everything he says.

Of course we wouldn't actually do that because there are other reasons to doubt the claim. Bob is human, humans are fallible, therefore, Bob is fallible. Plus, it's kind of a crazy claim anyway. All of those things would lead us to believe that the probability of the claim being true is less than 90%.

But all I'm trying to say is that using Bob to prove Bob is not necessarily circular. It's not in principle circular to rely on Bob's word that everything he says is true. We can rely on his general truthfulness to substantiate his claim.

The Bible differs from Bob, though. Bob is just one person, but the Bible contains the works of multiple people. To say "using the Bible to prove the Bible" is misleading. Consider Bob's imaginary friend, Dan. Dan is a pretty truthful guy, too. At least 90% of what Dan says is accurate. One day, Dan says, "Everything Bob says is true." Well, if Dan and Bob are different people, then there's no circularity in arriving at the conclusion that Bob is 100% accurate in everything he says. Since the Bible has different parts written by different authors, it's not circular reasoning to base the reliability of one author on the word of another author. That's why I say it's misleading to call this an example of "using the Bible to prove the Bible." Using Bob to prove Bob might be circular, but using Dan to prove Bob is not.

Let's say we know that Dan is wrong in 10% of what he says, but we know he's right in 90% of what he says. Not taking other background information into account (like the humanity of Dan and the fallibility of humans), there's a 90% chance that Dan's statement about Bob is true. That means there's a 90% chance that Bob is 100% correct in everything he says. There's no circular reasoning there.

So when Paul say that all scripture is God-breathed, and he's referring to all of the works of the Bible by authors other than himself, then it isn't circular reasoning to appeal to Paul to substantiate the truth of all those other books in the Bible. All we need is some reason to think Paul knows what he's talking about.

Of course if the only reason we accept the reliability of Paul is because Peter says he's reliable (2 Peter 3:15-16), and if the only reason we accept the reliability of Peter is because Paul says he's reliable, then we're using circular reasoning. But as long as we have some reason to think Paul is reliable other than Peter saying so, or vice versa, then our argument is not circular.

And one need not be 100% certain that the Bible is 100% accurate. One can believe in the infallibility of the Bible without claiming that their belief itself is infallible. It is perfectly consistent to say, "I think the Bible is 100% accurate, but I could be wrong about that." So if one is using some evidential or probablistic line of reasoning as the basis for trusting in the Bible's statements about its own authority, and not merely the assumption of infallibility, then one is not reasoning in a circle by concluding that the Bible is infallible from the Bible's own claims of infallibility.

Some people will accuse you of circular reasoning if you use the Bible to substantiate any claim, and not just the claim that the Bible is infallible. For example, let's say it's the claim that Paul met Cephas in Jerusalem. Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians, "Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days" (Galatians 1:18). If you use this verse to substantiate the claim that Paul knew Cephas, the knee jerk reaction of some people is to say, "You're using the Bible to prove the Bible. That's circular reasoning!"

To see how vacuous that retort is, you just have to apply the principle universally. Suppose I cite an article in the news paper to show that a murder took place at Peas Park over the weekend. Would the correct response be, "You're using the newspaper to prove the newspaper"? If so, then none of us could cite a source for anything at all because it would always invite the accusation of circular reasoning. Whatever the source is, one could say, "You're using the Source to prove the Source!" This knee-jerk Bible-to-prove-the-Bible retort is an argument that proves too much since it invalidates any source that you might cite to substantiate any claim.

Suppose we argue for the infallibility of the Bible by a more circuitous route. We begins with the claims of the Bible that (1) Jesus made himself out to be a prophet, messiah, and son of God, (2) Jesus was crucified for his claim to be the messiah, (3) some of his followers claimed to see him alive after his crucifixion, and (4) those same followers proclaimed that Jesus had risen from the dead. From there, we reason that (5) the appearances of Jesus were what caused them to believe he had risen from the dead, so (6) Jesus really did rise from the dead, so (7) Jesus really must've been a prophet, messiah, and son of God, so (8) Jesus was a reliable source. Also, (9) Jesus believed in the absolute authority of the Bible; therefore, (10) the Bible must be absolutely authoritative. Would this be an example of using the Bible to prove the Bible? In a sense, yes, but it's not circular reasoning as long as we don't rely on the divine authority of the Bible to substantiate the premises leading up to the conclusion. It would be circular reasoning if the only reason I believed Jesus made these lofty claims about himself or that he was crucified, etc. was because I already assumed the Bible was absolutely authoritative. But since all of the premises can be substantiated without assuming the divine authority of the Bible, the argument is not circular.

We can all agree that the New Testament is a product of the early church. It is historically value, at the very least, because it tells us something about what early Christians believed and how they lived. Historians do not naively look at primary sources and take their word for whatever they say. They don't treat the Bible that way either. But any ancient writing is historically valuable because it tells you something about the people it came from. There are criteria historians can use to determine if what a source says is true. These criteria do not amount to saying, "It's true because it says it's true." Rather, it's true because the author was in a position to know, or multiple independent people all say the same thing, or it's an embarrassing admission, or whatever. There are multiple reasons to think that what a person says was true other than the mere fact that they said it. If that were not the case, there would never be any point in calling a witness--especially the accused--to the witness stand.

Catholic apologists really do engage in circular reasoning, though. According to them, the only way we can know what books are God-breathed is because the Catholic Church tells us. We need an infallible source, like the Church, to tell us about the other infallible source--the Bible. But how do we know the Catholic Church has this authority? Well, they base that on scriptures such as 1 Timothy 3:15 where it says the Church is the "pillar and support of the truth." But how do we know we should believe 1 Timothy 3:15? Why, because 1 Timothy 3:15 is part of the canon of scripture, which the Church has defined. So we base the authority of the Church on the authority of scripture, and we base the authority of scripture on the authority of the Church. That's circular reasoning.

A Catholic can avoid circular reasoning by grounding the authority of the Church outside of scripture or by grounding the authority of the Bible outside of the Church. At some point, they're going to have to argue like protestants. They're going to have to look at history and engage in historical methods and argue, fallibly, for the authority of one or the other.

Monday, June 04, 2018

Gay cakes and discrimination

I just heard the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the guy who refused to make a cake for a gay wedding. I haven't read the ruling, so I don't know what the reasons were, but here are my thoughts.

I think there's a difference between being unwilling to serve a certain type of person and being unwilling to perform a certain type of service.

If the cake maker were willing to make a chocolate cake for a straight person but unwilling to make the same type of cake for a gay person, then he's discriminating against gay people.

But if the same cake maker were willing to make a chocolate cake for both gay and straight people, but unwilling to make a vanilla cake for either gay or straight people, then he's not discriminating against gay people. He's only being selective about the kind of cake he's willing to make.

So if the cake maker is willing to make straight cakes, whether straight people or gay people order them, but he's unwilling to make gay cakes, whether straight people or gay people order them, then he's discriminating against types of cake, not types of people.[1]

If it turns out that only gay people would ever want to order a gay cake, it doesn't for that reason become discrimination against gay people.

I'm a knife maker. I make both kitchen knives and hunting knives. Suppose I decided I only wanted to make hunting knives and no kitchen knives. Would I be discriminating against cooks? Of course not! A cook can buy a hunting knife from me any time he wants. The fact that he doesn't want a hunting knife and only wants a kitchen knife doesn't mean I'm discriminating against him. It just means I'm not providing a service that he wants, and he should find somebody else who does.


1. By "gay cake" and "straight cake," I mean a cake that is decorated in such a way as to indicate or celebrate a gay or straight union. For example, a straight wedding cake might have a figurine at the top of a bride and groom whereas a gay wedding cake might have a figurine at the top of two brides or two grooms.