Philosophical discussions


Prayson has posted a quote from the writings of Hume on his blog, a post that has elicited quite a bit of comment but which I think do not respond directly to what he[Hume] was alluding to and it is my intention to try to address the question here briefly and invite further comments.

A little philosophy, says lord BACON, makes men atheistsA great deal reconciles them to religion. For men, being taught, by superstitious prejudices, to lay the stress on a wrong place; when that fails them, and they discover, by a little reflection, that the course of nature is regular and uniform, their whole faith totters, and falls to ruin. But being taught, by more reflection, that this very regularity and uniformity is the strongest proof of design and of a supreme intelligence, they return to that belief, which they had deserted; and they are now able to establish it on a firmer and more durable foundation.

– David Hume, (NHR 4:329, Hume’s emphasis)

Cited: Natural History of Religion, in The Philosophical Works,ed. T .H. Green and T. H. Grose, 4 vols. (Dannstadt, 1964)

This quote here alludes to the design argument for the proof for the existence of god. Unlike other arguments that attempt to show the existence of god can be proved with the aid of pure reason alone, such as the Ontological argument, this argument starts with alluding to experience, that is, that we observe in the world of experience things that display regularity, uniformity and an appearance of design and then shifts to the ontological argument in its conclusion that there must exist a supreme intelligence. This conclusion, however, doesn’t follow from the premises. All that can be granted to the proponent of this argument is that there could exist an architect for the order in the universe but as an argument for the existence of god it is insufficient.

As a general comment, I need to add that if the existence of god were provable, only one argument would have been sufficient. The fact that there exists so many arguments attempting to prove that a god exists goes to show that they have all been insufficient in the course they set for themselves.

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One of the comments on the post is irrelevant to say the least and commits a logical fallacy. He writes

You are on the loosing side. Atheists comprised an estimated 2.01% of the world population, according to The World Factbook in 2010. Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_atheism

The Christian share of the world’s population has stood at around 33% for the last hundred years, which says that one in three persons on earth are Christians.

Christianity, in one form or another, is the sole state religion of the following nations: Costa Rica (Roman Catholic), Denmark (Evangelical Lutheran), El Salvador (Roman Catholic), England (Anglican), Finland (Evangelical Lutheran & Orthodox), Georgia (Georgian Orthodox), Greece (Greek Orthodox), Iceland (Evangelical Lutheran), Liechtenstein (Roman Catholic), Malta (Roman Catholic), Monaco (Roman Catholic), and Vatican City (Roman Catholic). There are numerous other countries, such as Cyprus, which although do not have an established church, still give official recognition to a specific Christian denomination.

Western culture, throughout most of its history, has been nearly equivalent to Christian culture, and many of the population of the Western hemisphere could broadly be described as cultural Christians. Though Western culture contained several polytheistic religions during its early years under the Greek and Roman empires, as the centralized Roman power waned, the dominance of the Catholic Church was the only consistent force in Europe. Until the Age of Enlightenment, Christian culture was the predominant force in western civilization, guiding the course of philosophy, art, and science. Christian disciplines of the respective arts have subsequently developed into Christian philosophy, Christian art, etc..

I want to point out that we are not in competition with christianity or any world religion for numbers. It is the religious who need numbers in their congregations for various reasons, atheism only calls for you to be rational and whether you chose to do so is your business. It has been noted that rationality is not for everyone since there are people around the world whose only concern is how they will get the next meal and as such do not have the luxury to spend their time thinking about philosophy.

The second problem with this argument is that the author isn’t concerned with whether the claims of christianity are true but rather with the number of the adherents of his particular sect. I would like to tell him that a false belief doesn’t become true because it is held by many people. The only thing that the numbers show, is that a significant part of the human population have bought into the story of some Hebrew goat herders set in the Middle East. Nothing more.

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The same fellow lists two [he claims] there are ten facts that show that evolution is false.  Yours truly is not a biologist and as such will invite comments by those who are well versed on this subject. He writes

Scientific Fact No. 1 – Human Egg and Sperm Proves Evolution is Wrong

The evolutionist ignores the problem surrounding the human female egg and the male sperm in the evolutionary theory. The female egg contains the X-chromosome and the male sperm contains either an X-chromosome for the reproduction of a male or a Y-chromosome for the reproduction of a female. The female eggs all develop within the ovaries while she is a baby (fetus) within her mother’s womb. Evolutionists claim environmental factors cause small changes in the offspring in the evolutionary chain. However, the environmental experience of the female cannot change the chromosomes within her eggs and cannot have any effect upon her offspring. Her body cannot go into the eggs contained within her ovaries at her birth to make an intelligent change. Females cannot be a part of the evolutionary theory for these reasons.

I honestly don’t get what he is saying.

Scientific Fact No. 2 – Chromosome Count Proves Evolution is Wrong

There is no scientific evidence that a species can change the number of chromosomes within the DNA. The chromosome count within each species is fixed. This is the reason a male from one species cannot mate successfully with a female of another species. Man could not evolve from a monkey. Each species is locked into its chromosome count that cannot change. If an animal developed an extra chromosome or lost a chromosome because of some deformity, it could not successfully mate. The defect could not be passed along to the next generation. Evolving a new species is scientifically impossible. Evolutionists prove that getting a college education does not impart wisdom.

If I understand what he is saying, it appears to me, he believes he evolved from a monkey which I don’t think is what is taught in evolution. Last I checked the theory of evolution posits that we share a common ancestor with other primates. I would be interested in knowing if he means by scientifically impossible that it is not possible in nature over long period of time for changes to occur?

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Related articles

Hume on religion

About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

40 thoughts on “Philosophical discussions

  1. aguywithoutboxers says:

    This is a great argument, my friend and blogging brother! Nice job! I agree that atheists do not need numbers of adherents; merely the freedom NOT to follow a proscribed belief system. As to the established (state endorsed) religions, I speak from experience that often these numbers are inflated simply because of the secular authority support. I know first-hand that the Greek community outside the Mother Country is supportive of the Orthodox church, in a large part, due to the cultural bond as opposed to specific belief. Much love and naked hugs! 🙂

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    • makagutu says:

      An atheist wants to be his priest and king and that is all we ask for. We don’t need numbers except when we want to defend the rights of everyone to be treated equally no matter their religion

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  2. Ishaiya says:

    It was believed for a very long time that Homo Sapiens evolved from Homo Erectus, with it being believed that the latter was an evolutionary development from the common ancestor shared by our monkey friends. However, Prayson must not be aware of recent discoveries that have proven that Homo Erectus and Homo Sapiens co-existed and actually cross-bred, over a very long period of time. In fact remains in a cave in China were recently discovered, fairly modern remains i.e. within the last 5000 years that suggest an entirely new species of modern man had evolved in isolation from the divergent species that peopled northern Europe.
    With reference to eggs, actually the one difficulty with knowing what sex a developing baby is in the womb is that all human eggs are essentially female and only as the pregnancy progresses do the genetic markers get switched on thus determining that the baby will be a boy. But much can happen during the course of a pregnancy to alter the development of the foetus.
    There is also evidence to suggest that all foetuses across the whole panoply of creature-hood actually start out the same, they all look the same, and are of the same genetic make-up, but that environmental factors influence which genetic markers are switched on or off determining how the foetus will grow and ultimately what form it takes.
    (There have been various documentaries by the BBC and studies carried out in conjunction with the Open University that have provided me with a source for the above information. In case anyone is interested for the sake of corroboration. Also my own conversations with surgeons during my numerous pregnancies). 🙂
    Great post Noel.

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    • makagutu says:

      Thank you for your response. I should read a bit more of evolution before my knowledge becomes so rusty.
      Tell me you are keeping well?

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      • Ishaiya says:

        I am keeping well thank you my friend, ever trying to keep current with my blogs by adding new material, but also keeping up to date with the goings on within the WP blogosphere amongst my many friends. Already time is speeding past today and I will have to be venturing out on my five mile walk to pick my children up from school. So it’ll be late this evening before I can return to my desk and resume writing.

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        • makagutu says:

          As you walk, do so for me too. It is too cold in the morning for me to venture out and go for jog since sometimes at the time am waking up it is raining.

          Five hours is good time to be reading from you, I will be back home from work and have all the time to read yours and all the blogs I follow

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          • Ishaiya says:

            Actually 15 deg is the perfect walking temperature for me, not too hot as expending the energy generates enough heat! However, it is raining at the moment with a thick sea fog, not exactly my favourite weather to walk in, although not a lot stops me. It just means means putting up with being uncomfortable for a couple of hours. As long as I don’t feel to cold it doesn’t bother me.
            I’m hoping I can get my next blog post finished this evening, but it’s proving to be a tricky one!
            Enjoy your day my friend! 🙂

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  3. Arkenaten says:

    ”As a general comment, I need to add that if the existence of god were provable, only one argument would have been sufficient. The fact that there exists so many arguments attempting to prove that a god exists goes to show that they have all been insufficient in the course they set for themselves.”

    This is the irrefutable truth..so simple and yet the religious idiots never see it, do they?

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  4. tildeb says:

    Regarding ‘Scientific Fact #2’ and how chromosome numbers can and do change, see here for an understandable explanation.

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  5. john zande says:

    Ah, it is a circus over there… and Roy is insane 🙂

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  6. archaeopteryx1 says:

    First, it’s true that the other great apes, the gorilla, chimpanzee, bonobo and orangutan, have one more pair of chromosomes than we Humans – some time ago, and I do not have the source at my fingertips nor time to hunt it up again (but it’s out there somewhere, you Googleites!), it was discovered that the reason for this, was that in the case of Humans, two pairs of our chromosomes had fused.

    And regarding the chromosomal contributions of male and female humans and the fact that the female provides only a “XX,” what chromosomal make-up could Yeshua (Jesus) have had, if he had ever existed? Is the Bible telling us that Holy Spirits have DNA? That they carry an “X” chromosome around for special occasions? Don’t tell me, let me guess – magic!

    Either that, or Yeshua was an exact clone of her mother, and not a male at all.

    Lastly, regarding the percentage of religious, vs atheists, I’d bet another survey, with the criteria of gullible vs rational, would yield almost the exact same results. Galileo was alone, and right, and I would be honored to share his company.

    arch

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  7. Mordanicus says:

    Even if we would accept the validity of several arguments for the existence of god, there is still a problem: there is no reason why the first cause is the same entity as the designer, or that either of them is identical to the greatest being.

    Yeah, the argumentum ad populum. Well, 33% is not the majority, is it? 16.7% is muslim, so what proves that? For some time Buddhism had been the world largest religion (which is ironically an atheist religion). Here we come to an interesting point, many eastern religions such as Buddhism, Toaism, Confucianism or some sects of Hinduism are non-theistic in that they reject the existence of a (creator) god as a necessary part of their religion. If you would counts the adherents of these religions, the actual percentage of atheists rises to 15 to 30%.

    A related argument often made by christians is the appeal to the fact that christianity has existed for two thousand years. Well, Buddhism, Judaism and Hinduism are all older than christianity; so these religions are more true? And never forget that the ancient Egyptian religion has lasted for more than 3000 years. Chistians should be warned.

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    • archaeopteryx1 says:

      The Sumerians had a theocracy that ran like a well-oiled machine for 4000 years, until Mesopotamia was slowly infiltrated by the Semitic Akkadians, who ultimately rose in power and defeated them. Comparing the US’s 250 years with their 4000, makes us look like newborns.

      To the best of my knowledge, they didn’t send out missionaries or couples who went door to door, and in fact, didn’t really seem to care what anyone else believed. If you have to be a theist, be a good Sumerian, and keep it to yourself.

      arch

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      • Mordanicus says:

        Comparing the US’s 250 years with their 4000, makes us look like newborns.

        I really doubt that the US will survive the next 250 years, let alone the next 3750 years.

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      • makagutu says:

        if the religious could be like the Sumerians I don’t think anyone is going to bother with them. I hope such a day comes soon

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    • makagutu says:

      The proponents of these arguments argue that god is the greatest possible being and as such would be the designer. I don’t think they conceive them as two separate beings.

      The argument of numbers is just crazy and it is interesting they don’t consider a religion such as Hinduism that predates christianity by several years when they argue for the length their particular delusion has been doing the rounds

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  8. Hume’s claim is simply wishful thinking, pretty typical of a theist who wants to claim that the only “right” answer is his particular version of theism. It is as baseless as many philosophical claims. “Reflection” is just one more way for a theist to say “think like me”.

    The claims of how “Christianity” is winning is just so cute! And such a lie. I have watched Christians savage each other for not being “TrueChristians”, all sure that only their version is the “true” one. I can remember when it was no special thing to distrust Catholics, and that still goes on. The claims that Christianity is one big happy family is simply nonsense, a convenient but false claim when a Christian wants to make the popularity fallacy; but quickly disposed of when you ask a Christian just who is “really” going to heaven.

    As for the claims about evolution, this is hilarious. Poor ignorant Christian, doesn’t actually know what evolutionary theory is, so the poor thing tries to attack his very own little strawman. Humans did not evolve from “monkeys”. And he has no idea on how eggs and sperm work at all. I guess he hid his eyes when that was covered in 9th grade science.

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    • makagutu says:

      The one about christians as if they are a homogenous group is surely cute. I don’t think he thought about it much.

      On evolution he writes above his pay grade, if he has any that is, and he is way out of his depth. He is drowning and needs urgent help.

      Hume just like many others before and after him have defined a god into existence

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      • heh. I love to hear the “pay grade” stuff. definitely something my husband uses. This Christian is doing more than drowning. He’s lying and his god will damn him as much as it will damn us atheists. Do you think I should promise to save him a seat in hell?
        and yes, Hume, et all have defined a god into existence. That’s a great observation. I hereby announce I’m stealing that : )

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        • makagutu says:

          I think hell will be better just with the damned atheists, I would have invited Buddhists but they are busy with reincarnation they may never get time to join us. Let the christians just go to heaven and have this discussions with god and maybe ask why god didn’t show up to save them the need to have to come up with arguments for his existence.

          By all means use it 😛

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    • john zande says:

      Club, you should weigh in…. It’s kinda fun over there

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      • problem is that I have a lot of adrenaline left from losing my kitty. I have no tolerance for morons at the moment.

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        • makagutu says:

          I think you would make good use of your time writing beer reviews than trying to convince a person that Noah is a story and his ark is myth. Don’t listen to John, you may just get a headache for banging your head against the wall many times 🙂

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  9. fojap says:

    Funny, Hume has always been one of my favorite philosophers. I actually dug out my old college copy of Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion but came back here with it only to see that the quote is taken from The Natural History of Religion, which I haven’t read. In any case, if one is reaching for Hume to argue against atheism then one is truly scraping the bottom of the barrel since the argument about him generally revolves around trying to figure out if he was really an atheist or just agnostic. I’m not sure that a Christian would be happy if they threw Hume around and successfully made everyone a confirmed agnostic.

    Hume’s death, by the way, is famous.

    From Gay’s The Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Paganism: (btw, by “pagan” Gay means “not Christian” and refers to Enlightenment philosophers looking towards ancient Rome for non-Christian models, not that they actively worshiped pagan deities.)
    “Hume’s good nature and graceful acceptance of his imminent dissolution withstood even the tasteless intrusion of James Boswell. On July 7, 1776, about seven weeks before Hume’s death, “being too late for Church,” Boswell went to see the dying man. “He was lean,” Boswell reports, “ghastly, and quite of an earthy appearance.” This did not stop the omnivorous interviewer: ‘I know not how I contrived to get the subject of Immortality introduced. He said he never had entertained any belief in Religion since he began to read Locke and Clarke,’ and added ‘flatly’ that ‘the Morality of every Religion was bad, and, I really thought, was not jocular when he said “that when he heard a man was religious he concluded he was a rascal, though he had known some instance of very good men being religious.” ‘ Undeterred by Hume’s appearance, Boswell then asked whether ‘it was not possible that there might be a future state. He answered it was possible that a piece of coal put upon the fire would not burn; and he added that it was a most unreasonable fancy that he should exist for ever.’ None of this was enough. ‘I asked him if the thought of Annihilation never gave him any uneasiness. He said not the least; no more than the thought that he had not been, as Lucretius observes.’ Boswell was dismayed, and ‘felt a degree of horrour, mixed with a sort of wild, strange, hurrying recollection of My excellent Mother’s pious instructions, of Dr. Johnson’s noble lessons, and of my religious sentiments and affections during the course of my life.’ The Christian was on the defensive,m and grave doubts assailed him. Perhaps to dispel them – he does not tell us – Boswell then sought refuge in an argument that Hume would certainly have been too charitable to use: ‘ “But,” said I, “would it not be agreeable to have hopes of seeing our friends again?” and I mentioned three Men lately deceased, for whom I knew he had a high value.’ Hume ‘owned it would be agreeable, but added that none of them entertained such a notion. I believe he said, such a foolish, or such an absurd, notion; for he was indecently and impolitely positive in incredulity.”….’…”

    I hope I didn’t overstep the bounds of politeness by throwing that paragraph at you. “Indecently and impolitely positive in incredulity.” Well, I’ve got to give Boswell a pat on the back for that phrasing.

    By the way, if you haven’t read Hume I highly recommend him. I see you have Kant up on your sidebar. Hume’s had a far greater effect on my own thinking, but that might just be my lax, pleasure loving nature.

    From Stanford’s website:
    “Although many of Hume’s contemporaries denounced his writings as works of scepticism and atheism, his influence is evident in the moral philosophy and economic writings of his close friend Adam Smith. Hume also awakened Immanuel Kant from his “dogmatic slumbers” and “caused the scales to fall” from Jeremy Bentham’s eyes. Charles Darwin counted Hume as a central influence, as did “Darwin’s bulldog,” Thomas Henry Huxley. The diverse directions in which these writers took what they gleaned from reading Hume reflect not only the richness of their sources but also the wide range of his empiricism. Today, philosophers recognize Hume as a precursor of contemporary cognitive science, as well as one of the most thoroughgoing exponents of philosophical naturalism.”
    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/hume/

    Okay, I’m going to stop before I just start transcribing his Treatise on Human Nature.

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    • makagutu says:

      Thanks my friend for your response and for the recommendation. The story of Hume’s death is most interesting. Prayson, though, didn’t make a commentary on the quote, I can only assume that he meant as a defense for christianity and every religious person who commented thought they have the final defender of their beliefs in Hume. At the moment Hume is not going to get a chance on the list though eventually I will. Am reading Arthur Schopenhauer’s main work and reading Kant was a detour because he[Arthur] repeats in several places in the introduction he will assume the reader has an understanding of Kant.

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  10. “I honestly don’t get what he is saying.” I think that sums it up pretty well, buddy. Crazy twats.

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