This page is split into three general sections:
The following is a summarized list of useful papers I’ve come across while doing research for the articles on this site, in downloadable PDF form.
1. The Law of Cause and Effect: Dominant Principle of Classical Physics David L. Bergman, Glen C. Collins, [PDF 208KB] — A concise history of order, and cause and effect, both pillars of modern science. The authors are Bible-believing Christians who note that the Babylonian idea of gods controlling nature was a perversion of earlier Hebrew notions of causality. The Hebrews did not believe in a pantheon of lesser gods responsible for lightning, rain, agriculture, fertility, etc. It is this erroneous Mesopotamian notion of causality that today’s atheists and skeptics often mock, while the Hebrew notion of a rational God led to the advent of modern science. The authors give an interesting overview of Greek atomism and its modern expression in the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, including criticism of the latter by Paul Wesley.
2. Bayesian Considerations on the Multiverse Vesa Palonen, [PDF 188KB] — A Finnish agnostic turned Christian with a PhD in physics, Palonen begins by identifying various problems in the use of observer selection effects with multiverse hypotheses. Palonen evaluates four popular applications of the observer selection effect: assume the observation, or AO [Sober, Ikeda, Jefferys], self-sampling assumption, or SSA [Bostrom], some universe, or SU [Manson, Thrush], and finally, this universe, or TU [White, Dowe]. In critiquing AO, Palonen notes that, “the observation is a probabilistic product of the hypothesis,” not independent of it. He criticizes SSA as “somewhat ad hoc,” and argues that the revised SSSA-R can lead to probabilities greater than one. Palonen attempts to answer the main criticisms of TU, and does so persuasively in my opinion. He concludes: “…because multiverse hypotheses do not predict fine-tuning for this particular universe any better than a single universe hypothesis, multiverse hypotheses are not adequate explanations for fine-tuning.”
3. Absence of Evidence, Evidence of Absence, and the Atheist’s Teapot Brian Garvey, [PDF 232KB] — Garvey, whom I believe is an atheist, opens by noting the fact that no positive evidence for atheism exists, and summarizes the atheist’s argument by reference to Russell’s teapot: “We can’t conclusively prove that there isn’t one, but we possess absolutely no evidence that there is. The reasonable conclusion is not merely to suspend judgment, but to conclude that there isn’t one.” Through a string of persuasive observations stemming from what he calls the “strong medicine” principle, Garvey argues that denial of the teapot is disanalogous to denial of God because the former entails all else the same, whereas the latter necessarily entails a positive claim of its own. Culminating in the assertion of an epistemic terminus outside the purview of science, Garvey concludes: “…the question of God’s existence is similarly beyond science’s scope. It may be thought that this ought to be obvious, but it is possible for people to be wrong-footed on the question of God’s existence by approaching it as if it were a scientific question. I see the atheist’s teapot argument as an instance of just such wrong-footedness.”
4. A Bayesian Analysis of the Cumulative Effects of Independent Eyewitness Testimony for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ John M. DePoe, [PDF 400KB] — Lamenting the ambiguity of prior arguments [e.g. Swinburne], DePoe, a Christian, writes: “…my goal is to apply EBT to testimonial arguments for the historicity of the Resurrection as an objective tool to disentangle mere personal opinion from evidential support.” DePoe recognizes the difficulty of assigning specific figures and opts instead for ranges he hopes “the atheist and theist alike could be happy with.” Generous indeed, DePoe is willing to disqualify all but 10 of the 520 witnesses recorded in the New Testament. After noting that “even with charitable values for each term the evidence for R is compelling,” DePoe turns to objections from John Earman, one of which is to claim defect in Bayesian analysis of multiple witnessing or Bayesianism itself, two of which essentially consist of assigning non-charitable prior probabilities without sufficient reason. After brief but compelling responses to Humean critique of miraculous testimony, DePoe concludes: “…the EH account presents a plausible way to demonstrate the overwhelming evidential case for the Resurrection–even while using diminished values for the evidence that many non-believers would find acceptable. Therefore, it is rational to believe that the eyewitnesses testify truly…”
5. What I Saw When I Was Dead A.J. Ayer, [PDF 64MB] — Ayer, a British humanist who did not believe in an afterlife or God, recounts his near death experience. Ayer wrote: “…these experiences, on the assumption that the last one was veridical, are rather strong evidence that death does not put an end to consciousness.” Nonetheless, Ayer did not publicly indicate that his atheism had been shaken: “[my experiences] have not weakened my conviction that there is no god. I trust that my remaining an atheist will allay the anxieties of my fellow supporters of the Humanist Association, the Rationalist Press, and the South Place Ethical Society.” However, in private, Ayer allegedly said the following to his physician, Jeremy George: “I saw a Divine Being. I’m afraid I’m going to have to revise all my various books and opinions.” Dee Wells, Ayer’s fourth wife, recalled that he was deeply changed after his experience, a phenomenon reported by the majority of those who experience NDE’s. During the last year of his life, Ayer spent much time with Frederick Copleston, a Jesuit priest and philosopher he had debated. Wells noted: “As he got older, [Ayer] realized more and more that philosophy was just chasing its own tail.”
6. Dietary Addictions: Why Eating Healthfully is so Difficult Alan Goldhammer, Jennifer Marano, [PDF 549KB] — I believe the scientifically demonstrated benefits of the vegan diet are a powerful testimony to the truth of the Bible. That which God originally decreed for human food turns out to be the best food for us. In contrast, wanton consumption of scientifically modified foods such as white flour and refined sugar have introduced many new diseases and deficiencies into the human species. In this short article on food addiction, the authors conclude: “The most effective way to lose weight and regain health is to adopt a health promoting diet derived from abundant quantities of fresh fruits and vegetables, and the variable addition of raw nuts and seeds, minimally processed starchy vegetables, (including potatoes, yams, squashes, whole grains (brown rice, millet, quinoa, but NOT flour products), and beans (such as lentils, peas, etc.). The elimination or severe limitation of all animal products is also recommended for health reasons…”
7. Notes on 2 Thessalonians Thomas L. Constable, [PDF 110KB] — Paul had a threefold purpose in writing his second letter to the Thessalonians: to encourage them to continue flourishing despite their persecutions, to correct the erroneous teachings about Christ’s return, and to admonish those who had quit working to get back to work. Some Thessalonians had accepted the teaching that the Day of the Lord had already come, even to the point of no longer being productive members of the church. In elaborating on the various positions regarding Christ’s return, Constable writes: “The seventieth week begins when the Antichrist signs a covenant with Israel allowing the Jews to return to their land (Dan. 9:27).” It is not difficult to imagine how such an event might unfold given the current world scenario.
8. Miracles and the Case for Theism Victor Reppert, [PDF 982KB] — In his first published paper, Reppert, a Christian, argues for middle ground between the claim that miracles are sufficient to prove God’s existence and the claim that miracles cannot form any part of a case for theism. He begins with the Humean treatment followed by Mackie’s reformulation, then moves to a more general discussion of testimony and intrinsic credibility. Reppert writes: “…in the case of miracle claims, we can ask ourselves whether the evidence, all things being equal, is more like what we should expect given a miracle, or more like what we should expect if there had been no miracle. If the evidence more resembles what we should expect given the miracle, then this evidence is more like what we should expect if theism is true than if naturalism is true. Thus evidence for miracles can be evidence for theism.”
9. Vindicating a Bayesian Approach to Confirming Miracles John M. DePoe, [PDF 285KB] — DePoe, a Christian, responds to Jordan Howard Sobel’s reformulation of the classic Humean treatment, arguing that the odds form of Bayes’ theorem can be used to establish the credibility of a miracle where we have n independent, equally reliable testimonies. In Logic and Theism, Sobel argued that the prior probability of a miracle should be an infinitesimal number. DePoe responds: “If infinitesimal probabilities cannot be compared with probabilities in the atom lottery [approximately 1/10^80], it becomes worrisome that there is no way to cash out Sobel’s syntactic ascription… Aside from the problem of giving a meaningful interpretation to Sobel’s syntax, there is a second problem: it is not clear that one could ever justify ascribing infinitesimal probabilities to any event… Since Sobel’s interpretation of Hume fails to have a meaningful semantic interpretation, and it cannot justify ascribing an infinitesimally low probability to a miraculous event, his interpretation of Hume’s criticism cannot be employed as a serious threat to the Bayesian approach of confirming a miracle. Since miracles cannot be given an infinitesimally low probability, then it remains possible in principle to accumulate enough finite evidence to confirm a miracle.”
10. Near-Death Experience in Survivors of Cardiac Arrest: A Prospective Study in the Netherlands Pim van Lommel, Ruud van Wees, Vincent Meyers, Ingrid Elfferich, [PDF 898KB] — In this 2001 article published in The Lancet, Dr. van Lommel and his fellow researchers publish the results of their study on 344 successfully resuscitated cardiac arrest patients across 10 Dutch hospitals, approximately 12% of which reported an NDE. Skeptical of the claim that cerebral anoxia can account for NDE’s in their totality, the authors note: “We do not know why so few cardiac patients report NDE after CPR, although age plays a part. With a purely physiological explanation such as cerebral anoxia for the experience, most patients who have been clinically dead should report one.” A coronary-care-unit nurse relays the veridical account of a 44-year-old, cyanotic, comatose man who apparently “saw” where she placed his dentures on the crash cart. The researchers report the findings of their follow-up interviews with patients at 2- and 8-year intervals. They also address the apparent poverty of alternative explanations: “Several theories have been proposed to explain NDE. We did not show that psychological, neurophysiological, or physiological factors caused these experiences after cardiac arrest.” The authors acknowledge induced experiences, but argue that they “are not identical to NDE,” and conclude: “with lack of evidence for any other theories for NDE, the thus far assumed, but never proven, concept that consciousness and memories are localized in the brain should be discussed.”
11. A Review of Near-Death Experiences Michael Schroter-Kunhardt [PDF 324KB] This paper is a fairly comprehensive overview of NDE studies and their findings. The author notes that NDE / OBE experiences are ubiquitous throughout culture and time, citing their existence in the Gilgamesh epic, 5th century Christian church reports, and 7th century Amida-Buddhist accounts. Various skeptical objections are responded to, with citations. Support is offered for the claim that sociological, demographic and psychological variables do not influence NDE. NDE are experienced by the very young and the very old. The author cites four studies in which patients apparently experienced NDE under isoelectric EEG, and even in the morgue after resuscitation efforts had been abandoned. The author makes an important point that I’ve alluded to before: via the problem of other minds, cessation of consciousness cannot be experienced or verified. It can only be assumed given various materialist presuppositions. The author makes another important point that tends to fall by the wayside in the NDE debate: “…all meaningful human behavior is associated with the temporolimbic region of the brain… the implicit statement of nearly all religious experiences to represent the reality of another world cannot be falsified by neurophysiological correlates.” Regardless of one’s inclinations on the matter, this is an excellent summary that cites over 160 scholarly papers and articles which would serve those interested in further research.
12. Quantum Interactive Dualism: The Libet and Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen Causal Anomalies Henry Stapp [PDF 216KB] Materialists strike me as out of step with modern science, and the author echoes those suspicions: “In spite of this seemingly relevant twentieth century development in physics, contemporary neuroscience and philosophy of mind continue to base their quests to understand consciousness on an essentially nineteenth century conceptualization of the human brain, ignoring the facts that the older conception of reality has been known to be false for almost a century, and that, in stark contrast to the nineteenth century conceptualization, contemporary orthodox physics has specified dynamical connections between brains and minds built intrinsically into it. …the quantum ontological model is a viable (i.e., not yet disproven) and logically coherent conception of the way that Nature actually works. The same cannot be said of local deterministic materialism.” For those interested in the free-will debate, the author addresses the Libet data and the EPR paradox in a way that seems to preserve compatibilism.
13. Waiting For The Other Shoe To Drop Hayden Ebbern, Sean Mulligan, Barry L. Beyerstein [PDF 128KB] A reprint of the Vol. 20, No. 4 Skeptical Inquirer article, July/August 1996, addressing the famous case of the tennis shoe on the windowsill. Following Hyman’s imperative to attack the best evidence, the authors exploit a range of possibilities to justify doubt concerning one of the more prominent NDE accounts in the literature. The authors conclude, “Our investigation cannot prove that Maria’s spirit did not leave her body and return, nor that Kimberly Clark’s recollections and interpretations are wrong. It does, however, show that this case, often touted as the best in the area of near-death studies, is far from unassailable, as its proponents assert.” Of course, if one is a committed skeptic, anything is assailable. It’s quite easy, in fact: all you have to do is doubt.
Common Sense Atheism
Any opinions of Luke Muehlhauser or the singularity aside, nobody can denigrate the wealth of pertinent info on the now-defunct site. Here are some of the links that I found the most comprehensive and/or useful over the past few years:
Leaving Christianity begins with a heartfelt essay about the deconversion process and contains literally hundreds of links to articles, essays and blog posts about people who left Christianity.
Episodes of the podcast In Our Time on religion
I strongly recommend Ex-Apologist’s Index: Assessing Theism in General and Christianity in Particular as a well-organized outline of over a hundred articles in contemporary philosophy of religion.
Chad McIntosh’s heavily footnoted Evidence for Christian Theism is another wealth of relevant material.
List of fallacies on the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy