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Messages - Kevin Olivier

Choose Your Own Topic / Stem Cell research?
« on: December 15, 2009, 02:13:10 pm »
Wonderer and zengardener,

Your objection to premise 1 seems to be not that it's false but that it's not sufficiently clear.  That is to say, you seem uncertain as to what I mean by a human being.  I mean a living organism that is a member of the species Homo sapiens.  I do not think there is any ambiguity about whether the embryos that certain stem cell researchers want to get their hands on are human beings in this sense.

Zengardener, your comment about evolution is interesting but irrelevant.  Granting for the sake of argument that human evolution happened and that your point that it would be impossible to say when a non-human mother had given birth to a human baby is correct, nevertheless that's not our problem.  Our problem is whether embryos produced today by IVF or cloning are human beings--that is, living organisms that are members of the species Homo sapiens.  This question is not difficult to answer.

I suspect, then, that the place where we really disagree is premise 2.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that you would want to revise premise 2 to say

2'. It is wrong to kill some human beings for scientific/medical research.

You would then go on to suggest criteria for determining which human beings are covered in 2' and which are not.  For example, zengardener has asked

Is it emotion?
recognition of self?
Perhaps recognition of self is irrelevant, so long as one is independant.

And when wonderer says

I don't consider a lump of tissue the size of my gallbladder to be a human being.

what is really communicated is that if a human being is small or looks like a lump of tissue, then that human being is not covered in 2'.  And, of course, given criteria such as these, the view that the two of you espouse--that killing embryos for research is acceptable--is tenable.

Contrary to all this, I think that it is wrong to kill any human being for scientific/medical research--that is, all living organisms that are members of the species Homo sapiens are morally valuable, and it is wrong to sacrifice any of them for the advancement of science and medicine.

Wonderer, your argument that premise 2 fails because some patients with terminal illnesses agree to experimental treatments that may result in their death is quite weak because this situation is deeply disanalogous to embryonic stem cell research.  It is known that extracting stem cells from an embryo kills the embryo, so that when someone decides to go ahead and do it anyway, that is intentional killing.  By contrast, it is unknown whether a patient who consents to experimental treatment will die as a result, so that this is no more murder than going into battle is suicide.

So my question for you, zengardener and wonderer (and anyone else who agrees with them), is: How would you defend your view that it is permissible to kill some human beings (my definition) but not others?

Choose Your Own Topic / Stem Cell research?
« on: December 14, 2009, 06:06:48 pm »

Which premise(s) in my argument do you think are false and why?

Choose Your Own Topic / Stem Cell research?
« on: December 14, 2009, 02:06:11 pm »

My argument does not assert that human embryos are potential human beings; potential has nothing to do with it.  My claim is that human embryos actually are human beings.  Now it is true that embryos are at an early stage of development, but that's irrelevant.  Each of us goes through a process of development from zygote to embryo to fetus to infant to adolescent to adult.  It is a smooth continuum of development throughout which the individual is fully human.  Now if you want to talk potential--sure, a human embryo is a potential human infant; likewise, a human infant is a potential human adult.  But an adult is no more human than an embryo.  These are stages of development, not gradations of humanness.

Now when you ask in what way human embryos are human beings, are you asking for evidence to support the claim that human embryos are human beings or are you asking for something else?

Choose Your Own Topic / Stem Cell research?
« on: December 14, 2009, 11:11:29 am »
Zengardener and Byrom,

We who oppose embryonic stem cell research do not object to the killing of embryonic stem cells.  We object to the killing of human embryos.  It is because human embryonic stem cells can only be obtained by killing human embryos that we oppose embryonic stem cell research.

1. Human embryos are human beings.
2. It is wrong to kill human beings for scientific/medical research.
3. Therefore, it is wrong to kill human embryos for scientific/medical research.

Byrom will have to defend a denial of (1) and/or (2) to sustain his view.

Choose Your Own Topic / Jesus and the Law
« on: November 11, 2009, 05:24:49 pm »

Jesus' view of the Law was very different from your own.  He saw the Hebrew Scriptures as the Word of God.  Read, for example, Matt 5:17-19.


Choose Your Own Topic / Fine tunning
« on: September 23, 2009, 01:48:28 pm »

The flaw in the atheist's quoted argument is that it presupposes the existence of God in order to undermine an argument for his existence.

Eternity / Eternal Does Not = Necessary
« on: March 02, 2009, 12:57:57 pm »

There is a passing reference to this in Craig's article "A Formulation and Defense of the Doctrine of the Trinity" about halfway through in a paragraph that starts "Anti-Social Trinitarians frequently ..."

Omniscience / Omniscience trilemma?
« on: April 22, 2008, 12:19:09 pm »

By the way, it may very well be that tables do possess the property of being beautiful (or ugly) with the result that the belief "That table is beautiful" is an objective belief.

Omniscience / Omniscience trilemma?
« on: April 22, 2008, 12:12:00 pm »
Well, I'm going to suggest (b).  I think you're right, Dreyshock, that we need to distinguish objective and subjective beliefs.  In my view, an objective belief is a belief that something is true about something external to oneself; for example, "That table is 5 feet long."  On the other hand, a subjective belief is a belief that something is true about one's own internal experience of something that is external to oneself; for example, "That table is beautiful."  As a subjective belief, "That table is beautiful" is really "I experience beauty when I look at that table."  Thus, the claim is not that the table itself has the property of being beautiful, but rather is a statement about something that is happening in me when I behold the table.

Understood in this way, subjective beliefs are actually objective!  That is to say, there really is a truth of the matter.  If I can't stand the smell of coffee, but I tell you that I love the smell of coffee, then I have lied.  Subjective beliefs, like objective ones, are either true or false.  It's just that they are beliefs about one's own experience, and as a result contain information about you and not so much about the external thing they reference.

So, why couldn't God hold subjective beliefs that are truly subjective?  Why couldn't it be the case, for example, that when God smells coffee (if it is even legitimate to imagine God smelling things) he finds it wonderful, but when I smell coffee I find it disgusting?  I could still say, "Coffee smells bad," and it wouldn't be false just because God says, "Coffee smells good."  My statement would not be about coffee, but about me.  God's statement would not be about coffee, but about him.  There is, then, no contradiction.


nevermind, I found it


vanhornluke, what is the view of causation that you claim many/most libertarians hold that is not agent causation?

Choose Your Own Topic / God exists because we can ask the question
« on: February 01, 2008, 05:45:14 pm »
Consciousness seems to me to provide evidence for God's existence.  Yet I hear relatively little discussion of this area of argument compared to cosmological, design, and moral arguments.  I'd like to gain more insight into just how strong a case might be made for God's existence from consciousness.  I don't have any syllogisms yet, only a series of questions and thoughts that I am hoping you can help me organize and understand better.

If ultimate reality were exhaustively physical prior to the origin of consciousness, where did consciousness come from?  What could possibly have brought it into existence?

One could deny that consciousness is real at all.  One could say that it's only an illusion.  But if I am having the illusion that I'm conscious, wouldn't that only be another form of consciousness?  We all agree that kitchen tables are not conscious.  But is it possible for someone to argue that while a kitchen table cannot be conscious, for all we know it might think that it is?

Consciousness is not itself a physical thing.  This seems obvious to me, so I won't argue for it unless someone wants to differ.

So it seems that we have a real non-physical thing among us.  But again, Where did it come from?

It seems odd that it should just pop into existence without any precursor that was anything like it.  Again, if everything was physical at some point (say, when only bacteria lived on the earth), then why did something non-physical come to be?  Now I know it's popular to assume that there is some point where a physical collection or system becomes so complex that consciousness just emerges spontaneously as a by-product of that complexity.  So people imagine that the human brain is so very complex and intricate that it can support the existence of conscious states.  But this is just not clear to me at all.  Why think that?  As I once heard J.P. Moreland say, it doesn't seem plausible that if you start with something physical and just keep rearranging its parts or adding more parts to it, that eventually you'll get something non-physical emerging from it.  It seems that you would just have a more complex physical assemblage, period.

Now it is obvious that theism easily solves this problem because on theism it has never been true that there were only physical things in existence.  Our consciousness is derived from God's consciousness.  But it seems that this feature of theism is not merely sufficient to explain the existence of consciousness, but is actually necessary as well.  In other words, could it be otherwise?  Could we have consciousness if there was a time when nothing was conscious?

Just as philosophers have argued that there must be an ontologically necessary being, and have disputed whether it is to be identified with the universe as a whole or with God, likewise may we not conceive that there must have always been something that was conscious, for consciousness cannot start on its own, but must have its source in something else that is conscious?

I'd greatly appreciate comments from theists and atheists alike.


ephphatha, you write that the LFW view of an act is that it is the result of a "spontaneous uncaused decision."  But isn't it inaccurate to say that an LFW act is uncaused.  Rather is not the cause of an LFW act the agent himself?  Any comment, vanhornluke?

Choose Your Own Topic / Divine Causation
« on: January 23, 2008, 09:18:01 am »
radical_logic wrote:
Quote from: loko5
Quote from: radical_logic
Quote from: Craig

the problem is that their are some causes that can be simutaineously with their effects.

Here's the problem with that view. Say A and B are occur simultaneously, and one is the cause of the other. How do we know which is the cause and which is the effect if they're occur simultaneously?

I believe radical_logic has confused epistemology with ontology.  He argues that if A and B occur simultaneously, then A cannot be the cause of B (or vice versa) because then we wouldn't be able to know whether A caused B or B caused A.  But why does that matter?  Let's grant that it's true that we'd be unable to know which caused which.  Does it follow from our inability to know that one caused the other that it is impossible that it is the case that one caused the other?

Kalam Cosmological Argument / Kalam and Free Will
« on: January 23, 2008, 08:58:30 am »
I believe vanhornluke has put his finger on the central issue here, namely, agent causation.

It seems that radical_logic conceives of God as existing in time before the beginning of the universe and at some moment of time willing the universe into being.  This willing he regards as an act which itself must have begun to exist, which means, given the causal premise of KCA, that it must have had a cause of its existence.  I suppose radical_logic is unwilling to concede that that cause could be God himself (agent causation).  Perhaps radical_logic believes that if God himself were the cause of the beginning of the universe, then since God has always existed, the universe would be always coming into being.  But this would be to confuse state causation with agent causation.  For if a state s is the cause of an effect x, then for as long as s happens, x also happens.  (For example, s = the temperature is >100 degrees C, and x = the water is boiling.)  But for some effect y that it is within the power of some agent a to bring about through willing, a may not will y over some time interval leading up to time t, will y at time t, and again not will y over some time interval commencing after t.  Agent a was the cause of effect y at time t even though a also existed during the time intervals before and after t without causing y.  To deny this is, it seems to me, simply to deny agent causation.  Well, if one denies agent causation, then of course one is going to have difficulty accepting that God brought the universe into being!  Theism involves the idea not that some act or state brought the universe into being but that God himself brought the universe into being (agent causation).

So even if God existed in time prior to the universe's creation, it would still be possible for him to create the universe.  But Professor Craig conceives of God as timeless sans the universe with a timeless determination of his will to create a universe.  God enters into time at the creation of the universe.  So even if one rejected what I wrote above about agent causation and time, the problem that radical_logic sees with KCA is solved by virtue of God's timeless existence sans the universe and the determination of his will to create being held timelessly.  (For more, see Craig's Time and Eternity.)

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