Has anyone come up with an adequate or nearly adequate reply to the Euthyphro Dilemma or has it so far proved the nail in the coffin to the Divine Command Theory? Thanks.

I take it that the Euthyphro dilemma against divine command theory involves the choice between saying that something is right because God says it is right and saying that God says something is right because it is right. The former claim seems false, since it seems to entail the falsehood that if God simply said torturing kittens was right, that would make it right to torture kittens. And the latter claim does not seem strong enough for divine command theory, since it does not make God's command the source of moral value. I'm no expert on this topic, but there seem to be two obvious rejoinders. One would be to bite the bullet and allow that God is the source of morality, so the first horn of the dilemma is correct. If God commanded kitten torture, then that would in fact be the right thing to do. Our strong initial intuition to the contrary is just due to the fact that we have been brought up on the basis of what God actually commands, which (let's suppose) includes a command to be kind to animals....

Child "A" is well behaved because he believes in Santa Clause. Child "B" is well behaved simply because he appreciates the concepts of courtesy and cooperation. Inherently, child B is more moral than child A because child A's behaviour is motivated by personal gain. Thus, isn't it logical to say that an adult who is well behaved without the belief in a god is more moral than someone who believes in heaven? Thanks, Jeff

I'm inclined to agree with you that someone who does the right thing because it is the right thing is morally more impressive than someone does the right thing for the sake of some reward. At the same time, you can believe in God (and even believe in heaven), do the right thing, yet not do it for the sake a reward, but just because it is the right thing.

I've been giving a lot of thought lately to a line out of Woody Allen's most recent movie, "Match Point," in which the lead character opines that "...faith is the path of least resistance..." My tentative conclusion is that this may be true for what I call "megachurch faith," but perhaps not for thinkers like St. Augustine or Maimonides who struggled in their faith. What do your philosophers think about this proposition?

I agree with you. We may be inclined to believe something, even though we don't have sufficient evidence for it. If we follow our inclinations, we might describe this as an act of faith and also as following the path of least resistance. But sometimes people feel that they ought to have a certain belief they are not inclined to have. We might say that they are stuggling to acquire faith, and this may be a path of great resistance. I should add that don't myself find either of these paths very attractive. What attracts me is the idea of tailoring one's beliefs according to the strength of the evidence. But this must be understood in a way that is compatible with the fact that the great bulk of what we believe we believe not because we saw it or worked it out for ourselves, but because someone else told us. There is a sense in which all those beliefs based on testimony are acts of faith, though this faith need not be wholly uncritical.

In relation to the debate raging in the US about evolution and Intelligent Design, I would like to know whether positing the existence and prior activity of an intelligent designer is a scientific or a philosophical question. Is it scientifically conceivable that the existence of a designer and of things having come about purposefully as opposed to randomly could ever be deduced from available or putative evidence?

It's not going to be possible to deduce intelligent design from scientific evidence, but no scientific theory can be deduced from evidence, only more or less supported by it. And I agree with Richard that there could in principle be good evidence for the existence of an an intelligent designer. Of course we have such evidence all the time for the human case. For example, archeologists working on a dig have to decide whether a given object is likely to be a natural product or a human artifact, and they often have excellent evidence for the latter hypothesis, i.e. for intelligent (human) design. But an inference to a non-human and perhaps divine designer seems crucially different in a number of respects. First of all, we have loads of independent evidence for the existence of human intelligent designers, but not for extra-terrestial or divine designers. Second, there really is no other remotely plausible explanation for the existence of say a finely wrought neclace than intelligent design,...

Can the necessity/contingency paradox be dissolved? If God is thought to be a necessary being, how can He be the creator of a contingent world or have an ongoing involvement with it?

It is not immediately obvious why there should be a paradox here. Not to encourage any invidious comparisons, but I am a contingent being who has an ongoing involvement with the world. To say I am contingent is to to say that I might not have existed; but that is no problem so far as my involvement, since fortunately for me I do exist in actuality. Suppose that there is a God and He has ongoing involvement with the world and indeed, unlike me, he created it too. The additional supposition that, again unlike me, he could not have not existed, seems to pose no additional barrier to His involvement. To express the matter in the possible world talk that philosophers like, to be involved with the actual world you must be in the actual world; but your additional presence in other worlds does not prevent this involvement.

An atheistic blogger recently responded to a question about reincarnation by saying that he was certain that the mind's energy simply dissipates impotently, once its host (the body) is no more. Why, though, is the concept of reincarnation any more ridiculous than it is for my wireless laptop to transmit an intangible email, and for another computer to receive and reconstitute it, in a similar form though not exactly the same?

There seems to be nothing incoherent in the idea of a mechanism that 'clones' structural features of one person's brain and produces another person with similar personality and dispositions (cf. the transporter on Star Trek ). But there is no evidence whatever that such a mechanism actually exists.

Can the contradiction between omnipotence and free will be resolved? Does omniscience and omnipotence mean foreknowledge? Does foreknowledge always mean a fixed future? And if these conclusions are yes, does this negate any religion that believes in such a deity?

The answer to the first question seems to be that there is no contradiction. If there can be free will without omnipotence, then I don't see why there can't be free will with it. There could be an omnipotent creature who decides to leave us alone. The second question is harder, and it will depend on just how omniscience and foreknowledge are understood. But there are conceptions of God according to which God is outside time and surveys all of history. If this is coherenent (a big 'if', maybe), then it looks like there could be foreknowledge without a fixed future. Or would it not count as fore knowledge if God is outside time?

To what extent does belief preclude speculative thought? If to believe is to accept a proposition as being true (as my dictionary claims), do we undermine our belief by testing the proposition? To what extent does testing a proposition imply doubt. I attend a private Christian university, so I find this question extremely important. I have given up using the word "believe" completely because it seems to undermine my need to question things. When people ask if I believe in God, Jesus-as-Christ, the Trinity, I feel I have to say, "no." Would proclaiming belief in those things while questioning their validity undermine what we mean by "belief"? Did this question even make sense?

Belief does not imply dead certainty. Indeed many philosophers would say that no belief should reach that level, and some philosophers think that beliefs come in degrees, like probabilities. Doubt also seems to come in different levels, and allowing for the possibility of error may correspond to a low level of doubt that is compatible with belief. Of course if the doubt at issue amounts to actually believing that the proposition is false, then that is incompatible with believing it to be true. (Or if beliefs correspond to probabilities, giving the truth of the proposition a probability less than .5 is incompatible with giving a probability greater than .5 .) Since belief is compatible with allowing for the possibility of error, belief is also compatible with an interest in testing. That process might undermine the belief; it also might strengthen it. In religious contexts, however, the term 'belief' may sometimes be used to mean something like 'unshakable faith', in which case there may...

Is religion a result of evolution? I mean, is the human kind fitter and more surviving by being religious?

This is a matter of dispute. First of all, there is dispute over whether religion has any innate component, for example whether there is an innate predisposition towards religion. Second, if there is an innate component, there is a further dispute over whether this is present because it is in itself advantageous from a natural selection point of view, or whether instead it is a by-product of other cognitive traits having nothing particular to do with religion that have such an advantage.