My thanks go to KF for pointing out the dustup over at TSZ over my last post. I found this little gem at TSZ particularly amusing.
Allan Miller quotes me and responds:
Barry: “Materialists are obliged to believe …”
Miller: … absolutely nothing. There is no obligation.
Well Allan, I suppose it depends on what one means by “obliged.”
My dictionary defines it in two ways:
“to require or constrain as by law or command”
“to require or constrain as by conscience”
Perhaps our difference lies in the different ways we have used the word. You are certainly correct that no one is going to require or constrain materialists by law or command to accept the conclusions that are logically compelled by their premises. There is no law against being irrational. You’ve got me there. I concede your point.
I was, however, using the word in the second sense. I assume (perhaps incorrectly, but I am always willing to give the benefit of the doubt) that materialists are honest. Honestly mistaken, but honest nevertheless. My conscience compels me to accept the conclusions that are logically compelled by my premises. For example, I believe the truth claims made in the ancient Christian creeds. From this premise I am “obliged” to further believe that there is one and only one God, and this means I am not free to believe there are 50 gods.
I assume that, just as with myself, materialists’ consciences compel them to accept the conclusions that are compelled by their premises. That is how I was using the word “obliged.” Now back to my original point to which you took umbrage. I wrote:
“Materialists are obliged to believe that every aspect of human behavior is determined – that it was selected for by evolutionary processes. Materialists are, therefore, obliged to believe that humor conferred on humans some reproductive advantage that was selected for by natural selection.”
Now, it seems to me that given their premises materialists are in fact “obliged” to believe these things. If you disagree you must show me where I am wrong. If I have stated correctly materialist premises and the argument I have constructed from those premises is valid, then the conclusions I have reached follow as a matter of logic. If you believe I am wrong you must show me where I have misstated materialist premises or where my argument is invalid or both. Your “neener neener neener I’m not obligated to believe anything” response is, to say the least, not particularly compelling.