Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Saturday, May 28, 2011
I've been watching or listening to sports, lately, hoping it will keep me sane and level-headed. I'm following the Tigers, and if the NFL lockout comes to an end before the football season starts, I'll be following the Lions. And it looks like the Lions might have a decent team this year.
Of course, the problem is that when you listen to sports talk radio, you find out that they have their own whackos: people who become very passionate about whatever issue is the controversy of the day. And if you listen long enough, you find out what the issues are all about, and then you develop an opinion, and the next thing you know, you too are a sports whacko.
So there really is no escape.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
The problem is that NIST won't release the data, because it "might jeopardize public safety." Supposedly they're afraid that terrorists might learn how to bring down skyscrapers by starting office fires.
Of course, by refusing to release their data, they also make it impossible for architects and engineers to study it and learn how to design buildings so that they don't collapse from office fires. Or as professional engineer Wayne H. Coste put it:
"Suppressing this analysis from peer review is unconscionable. Public safety is endangered when engineers are precluded from studying how an ordinary office fire could completely and utterly destroy a forty-seven-story modem skyscraper such that for more that 100 feet it exhibited free-fall acceleration."
So who to believe? Demolition expert Danny Jowenko, along with 1500 architects and engineers, who say that WTC7 was brought down by controlled demolition, or NIST, who refuses to release the data that supposedly supports their conclusion that office fires are to blame?
Monday, May 23, 2011
Sunday, May 22, 2011
"People often invent conspiracy theories when they feel dejected and disenfranchised, but are unwilling (or politically unable) to admit the possibility they are wrong. Such theories are often an attempt to save face by inventing opponents who can then be blamed.
Apparently imaginative (and as far as I am aware, totally and completely false!) conspiracy theories about censorious pressure and lawsuit threats from William Dembski or other ID proponents are easier for these ID-critics to believe than it is for them to simply accept that perhaps their methods were distasteful to the average scholar who believes in civil, well-reasoned academic discourse. But given that the whole issue was co-organized by an NCSE leader and a 9/11 conspiracy theorist, perhaps their conspiracy-theorizing and unwillingness to admit incivility and error isn't that surprising."
Now I happen to agree with him that the editors-in-chief realized that some of the comments of the ID-critics were "distasteful to the average scholar who believe in civil, well-reasoned academic discourse." (Though I wonder why they allowed the sworn enemies of ID to have a special, self-edited edition to publish their opinions. As I wrote previously, that is where I would suspect a conspiracy theory).
My problem is with Casey's statement that, "People often invent conspiracy theories when they feel dejected and disenfranchised, but are unwilling (or politically unable) to admit the possibility they are wrong."
For believe it or not, Casey Luskin is a conspiracy theorist himself. He is an admitted advocate of Intelligent Design Theory, which posits a designer to explain the origin of life and perhaps some or all of its evolution. In other words, Casey rejects the idea that the origin of life can be explained without the need of someone conspiring to make it happen. Now did he become an advocate of ID because he felt "dejected and disenferanchised" and is "unwilling to admit that he is wrong"? Let's hope not. Let's hope that he became an advocate of ID because he thinks there is good evidence for it. And let's hope that he is willing to admit that he is wrong, if only someone could show him the light.
Likewise, people often accept other conspiracy theories, besides ID, because they think there is good evidence for them. And let us hope that they would be willing to admit that they are wrong, if only someone would show them the light. The 1500 architects and engineers (who reject the official conspiracy theory) who believe that the WTC towers were brought down by controlled demolitions would be a good example of people who claim that there is good scientific evidence for their position.
As far as I know, no one has presented adequate evidence to refute their position.
Saturday, May 21, 2011
So why am I giving advice on how to prepare for the end? Because your life or my life may end today, just like many lives ended yesterday and will end tomorrow. So how do we prepare for it? If you're an atheist, you believe that the end of your physical life is the end for you. I disagree, but I won't argue with you. The point is that there is at least the possibility that you are mistaken and that you will continue to exist after your physical body comes to an end. If so, is there something you can do about it today? I could tell you to ask Jesus into your heart. But you don't believe that Jesus, if he existed, was more than a mere human being. So what would be the point? So I won't tell you to do that.
What I will tell you to do is what Jesus told people to do: Be merciful. If someone has wronged you, forgive him. Why? Because if it turns out that there is a God, He will then be merciful to you.
Take care of those around you. If you see people in need, help them. It may only mean a kind smile and an encouraging word. It may mean more: giving money to someone who really needs it. Giving a ride to someone who really needs it. Visiting the sick or those in prison.
Why? Because, if there is a God, then your purpose on Earth wasn't so you could just help yourself. You were put here to love and take care of others.
In other words, the way to prepare for the End of the world is the same way you should prepare for the End of your life. Live as if God exists, even if you think He doesn't. That way, just in case you're wrong, you've got your butt covered.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Well we know the conspiracy theory of James Fetzer: the ID movement threatened the editors-in-chief of Synthese, until they caved and issued their disclaimer.
But Fetzer hasn't gone deep enough for me. Why would Synthese issue a special edition of their journal and allow the avowed enemies of ID to say whatever they wanted to say about the people they so despise?
Some ideas: The editors-in-chief of Synthese wanted to say all those nasty things about ID proponents, but knew that they couldn't and still maintain their high scholarly level. So they came up with the idea of a special edition, where the known enemies of ID could be do the dirty work for them. Then, in case there was an outcry against the low level of etiquette in the special edition, the editors-in-chief could issue their disclaimer and wash their hands of the whole mess.
OR, they really could care less about ID, but were willing to do anything to improve dwindling subscriptions of their journal, knowing they could always issue a disclaimer if things turned sour.
OR, they really like the word "brouhaha" and wanted to see somebody use it in conjunction with their Synthese.
I think you know which alternative I prefer.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
So I thought it was a rather interesting coincidence that ae911truth.org just happen to put up their assessment of the DEW hypothesis.
Maybe they like the word "brouhaha" as much as I do.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Monday, May 16, 2011
The Synthese brouhaha (I love that word) has even made the New York Times. Despite accusations by Barbara Forest and others that the editors-in-chief had caved to pressure from the ID community, the only evidence we have of pressure is from three philosophers who do not support ID:
Three philosophers have, however, admitted to contacting the editors who issued the quasi-apology for Dr. Forrest’s article. One is the Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga, of Notre Dame, who recalled sending an e-mail to the editors two years ago.
“I thought her article didn’t measure up to the usual academic standards of Synthese at all,” he said on Thursday. “It was heavy on character assassination and innuendo and light on anything Beckwith ever said.”
In May 2009, the Calvin College philosopher Kelly James Clark also wrote to Synthese. “I reject intelligent design and I don’t think it should be taught in the schools in the U.S.,” he said in an e-mail dated May 5, 2009. Like Dr. Plantinga, Dr. Clark accused Synthese of “character assassination."
Dr. Beckwith, the article’s subject, also wrote to the editors in 2009.
“For a couple of days, I was really depressed,” he said by telephone. He was baffled by what he felt were ad hominem attacks, and what he saw as guilt by association. (He says he has nothing to do with Christian Reconstructionists, for example.) He wrote a letter to the editors, but said he never asked anyone else to complain on his behalf. “I don’t know these guys well, but to have philosophers of that stature come to your defense — I was blown away by that.”
"I’m speaking independently of my co-editors and the publisher here, but I’m sure they’ll concur with me fully: To be clear, the editors in chief of Synthese in no way “caved to the ID lobby” or to threats of lawsuits. Regular readers of the journal will find many instances of intemperate language and ad hominem in this issue which we regret and for which we take full responsibility. We are in no way shifting this responsibility to the guest editors. We failed to prevent this language going into print and because of this failure we felt the obligation to write this preface and to acknowledge that we compromised the standards of the journal."
Sunday, May 15, 2011
First, it occurred to me that if Professor Feser accepts Scholastic Realism (the view that Platonic Forms exist in the mind of God), then perhaps his objection to ID is unfounded. As he wrote here:
"...In the case of a snake or a strand of DNA, for example, there is for A-T simply no such thing as a natural substance which somehow has all the material and behavioral properties of a snake or a strand of DNA and yet still lacks the “information content” or teleological features typical of snakes or DNA. And so, when God makes a snake or a strand of DNA, He doesn’t first make an otherwise “information-free” or teleology-free material structure and then “impart” some information or final causality to it, as if carrying out the second stage in a two-stage process."
On an Aristotelian view, this would be true. The form of a snake would be contained in the natural substance of which it is composed. No further Form needs to be added to it. And apparently this was the view of Aquinas, also. But it's not at all clear that it needed to be his view. If as Feser wrote in The Last Superstition, Aquinas was a Scholastic Realist, then it seems to me that if he wanted he could have maintained that besides the natural substance that snakes were made out of, the additional form of Life needed to be imparted to before they could become living snakes. Thus Feser's objection to Dembski would only hold for those who thought that the form of Life was contained actually or eminently in natural substances. (Somebody please tell Daniel Smith that I think he can be a Thomist and still think that Life is something that only comes about by direct, special activity of God).
Second, I had replied to Professor Feser that I thought if Dembski read his latest post on ID, that Dembski would either correct or clarify his own position. Well it turns out that Dembski had already done so. As he wrote:
"I don’t think this criticism hits the mark. I have to confess that I’ve always been much more a fan of Plato than of Aristotle, and so I don’t quite see the necessity of forms being realized in nature along strict Aristotelian lines. Even so, nothing about ID need be construed as inconsistent with Aristotle and Thomas."
Saturday, May 14, 2011
Feser on the Reality of Plato's Forms: Or what he takes away with the left-hand, he gives back with the right.
1. The "one over many" argument.
2. The argument from geometry.
3. The argument from mathematics in general.
4. The argument from the nature of propositions.
5. The argument from science.
6. The vicious regress problem.
7. The "words are universals too" problem.
8. The argument from the objectivity of concepts and knowledge.
9. The argument from the possibility of communication.
I find all of the arguments listed to be cogent and the conclusion that Forms exist independently of material reality to be true. Which is why Feser's (apparent) rejection of Plato's view in favor of Aristotle's view of the Forms puzzles me. Aristotle believed that the Forms were real, but that they did not exist independently of the material world. But most if not all of the arguments that Feser presented for the reality of the Forms would seem to refute Aristotle's position as well.
I remained puzzled by this until I read further, and found out that Feser doesn't really accept Aristotle's view of the Forms. He accepts something known as "Scholastic Realism," where the Forms exist in the mind of God, independently of the material world. So good, Feser remains consistent.
Only now I'm puzzled why he took away the Platonic Forms with the left-hand of Aristotle, only to give them back with the right-hand of Scholasticism. Oh well, after putting up with Feser fighting against ID, until he really admitted that there was nothing wrong with it, only with Dembski's (apparent) interpretation of it, I guess I shouldn't be surprised.
Friday, May 13, 2011
"Researchers the world over, speaking hundreds of different native tongues, all use the technical term “Hemiptera” to refer to the same group of insects [bugs]."
Yeah, but do they also call them "bugs"? Or is that just an Anglo/American thing?
Monday, May 9, 2011
It's a good thing I didn't try reading the book before my confidence in Feser had been established. As he himself describes it, it is an "angry book," wherein not only does he try to refute Atheism, but also takes potshots at liberals and conspiracy theorists. Since I am both of those, I probably would have thrown the book out before I got past the first chapter. So if you are a liberal, conspiracy theorist or a "secularist," my guess is that you would find Feser's book to be rough sailing. Which is too bad. I'm in the second chapter, where he presents a very concise yet clear view of Greek philosophy, which is the foundation for Western thought. I want to read his book, since I've always had trouble understanding Aristotle. How significant is Aristotle? According to Feser,
"Abandoning Aristotelianism, as the founders of modern philosophy did, was the single greatest mistake ever made in the entire history of Western thought."
Having obtained an undergraduate degree in philosophy from a university where modern analytic philosophy was the thing, I can vouch for the fact that Aristotle was never taken very seriously. If modern philosophical problems (and there are many) can be traced to rejecting Aristotle, then understanding him may be the key to fixing those problems. So I look forward in hope to Professor Feser being able to explain Aristotle (and Aquinas) to me.
And Feser has also eased my conscience. I often doubt the wisdom of occasionally spouting off about my liberalism and conspiracy notions. He's reminded me that there is a need for a voice like mine, if only to show that one can believe in God without being a conservative who swallows, unexamined, whatever official account is given of major political events.
Sunday, May 8, 2011
What Peterson ignores is Lewis's chapter 9, "Animal Pain," where he writes:
"It seems to me, therefore, a reasonable supposition, that some mighty created power had already been at work for ill on the material universe, or the solar system, or at least, the planet Earth, before ever man came on the scene: and that when man fell, someone had, indeed, tempted him. This hypothesis is not introduced as a general "explanation of evil": it only gives a wider application to the principle that evil comes from the abuse of free will. If there is such a power, as I myself believe, it may well have corrupted the animal creation before man appeared. The intrinsic evil of the animal world lies in the fact that animals, or some animals, live by destroying each other. That plants do the same I will not admit to be an evil. The Satanic corruption of the beasts would therefore be analogous, in one respect, to the Satanic corruption of man. For one result of man's fall was that his animality fell back from the humanity into which it had been taken up but which could no longer rule it. In the same way, animality may have been encouraged to slip back into behaviour proper to vegetables. It is, of course, true that the immense mortality occasioned by the fact that many beasts live on beasts is balanced, in nature, by an immense birth-rate, and it might seem, that if all animals had been herbivorous and healthy, they would mostly starve as a result of their own multiplication. But I take the fecundity and the death-rate to be correlative phenomena. There was, perhaps, no necessity for such an excess of the sexual impulse: the Lord of this world thought of it as a response to carnivorousness -- a double scheme for securing the maximum amount of torture. It it offends less, you may say that the 'life-force' is corrupted, where I say that living creatures were corrupted by an evil angelic being. We mean the same thing: but I find it easier to believe in a myth of gods and demons than in one of hypostatised abstract nouns. And after all, our mythology may be much nearer to literal truth than we suppose. Let us not forget that Our Lord, on one occasion, attributes human disease not to God's wrath, nor to nature, but quite explicitly to Satan. [Luke 18:16]
If this hypothesis is worth considering, it is also worth considering whether man, at his first coming into the world, had not already a redemptive function to perform. Man, even now, can do wonders to animals: my cat and dog live together in my house and seem to like it. It may have been one of man's functions to restore peace to the animal world, and if he had not joined the enemy he might have succeeded in doing so to an extant now hardly imaginable."
So should there be good evidence for ID, then Lewis would not have been troubled that there might also be evidence for evil ID. For him, Satan would be a prime candidate for the role.
Saturday, May 7, 2011
"If the Ultimate Fact is not an abstraction but the living God, opaque by the very fullness of His blinding actuality, then He might do things. He might work miracles. But would He? Many people of sincere piety feel that He would not. They think it unworthy of Him. It is petty and capricious tyrants who break their own laws: good and wise kings obey them. Only an incompetent workman will produce work which needs to be interfered with. And people who think in this way are not satisfied by the assurance given them in Chapter 8 that miracles do not, in fact, break the laws of Nature. That may be undeniable. But it will still be felt (and justly) that miracles interrupt the orderly march of events, the steady development of Nature according to her own inherent genius or character. That regular march seems to such critics as I have in mind more impressive than any miracle. Looking up (like Lucifer in Meredith's sonnet) at the night sky, they feel it almost impious to suppose that God should sometimes unsay what He has once said with such magnificence. This feeling springs from deep and noble sources in the mind and must always be treated with respect. Yet it is, I believe, founded on an error.
A supreme workman will never break by one note or one syllable or one stroke of the brush the living and inward law of the work he is producing. But he will break without scruple any number of those superficial regularities and orthodoxies which little, unimaginative critics mistake for its laws. The extent to which one can distinguish a just 'license' from a mere botch or failure of unity depends on the extent to which one has grasped the real and inward significance of the work as a whole. If we had grasped as a whole the innermost spirit of that 'work which God worketh from the beginning to the end', and of which Nature is only a part and perhaps a small part, we should be in a position to decide whether miraculous interruptions of Nature's history were mere improprieties unworthy of the Great Workman or expressions of the truest and deepest unity in His total work. In fact, or course, we are in no such position. The gap between God's mind and ours must, on any view, be incalculably greater than the gap between Shakespeare's mind and that of the most peddling critics of the old French school."
The whole chapter is worth reading, but I think I've quoted enough, for now, to show that Lewis would have no problem with the idea of God intervening in natural history in order to accomplish His ends, such as possibly bringing about the origin of life, or causing the necessary mutations needed to bring a new form of life into being. In other words, Lewis would have no theological or philosophical objections to Intelligent Design theory.
Thursday, May 5, 2011
I think this post brings a great deal of clarity to the debate, and I think it shows that there does not need to be a fundamental disagreement between A-T philosophy and ID theory. My guess is that if Dembski reads this post, he will agree with what you have said, and correct or clarify his own statements regarding the incompatibility between Aristotelianism and ID. But if I'm mistaken about Dembski, then I would agree with you that Dembski's form of ID is philosophically and theologically problematic. But let's get down to details. You write:
"For something to be an “artifact” in the Aristotelian sense, it is also necessary that its parts have no immanent tendency to function together as a whole, and this is not true of corn any more than it is true of the various dog breeds or of human infants, while it is true of a hammock or of the other examples of artifacts."
Agreed!!! It is patently obvious that the parts of living organisms have an immanent tendency to function together as a whole. I think Dembski would agree with this. If he doesn't then he's mistaken. However, I don't think this is what he meant by referring to living things as artifacts. What I think he meant is that it was exceedingly unlikely that the parts could be brought together and in the right order so that they could then function together as a whole. So unlikely, that a reasonable person would infer that an agent must have brought the parts together and in the right order.
"In the case of a snake or a strand of DNA, for example, there is for A-T simply no such thing as a natural substance which somehow has all the material and behavioral properties of a snake or a strand of DNA and yet still lacks the “information content” or teleological features typical of snakes or DNA. And so, when God makes a snake or a strand of DNA, He doesn’t first make an otherwise “information-free” or teleology-free material structure and then “impart” some information or final causality to it, as if carrying out the second stage in a two-stage process."
Agreed!!! And this provides the answer to Mr. Green's question about the robocow. If a robocow has all the identical parts, arranged in the right way, of a living cow, then it is not a robocow. It is a living cow.
Now whether the living cow evolved from a different kind of animal, without the need of an agent imparting additional information, or whether it evolved with an agent imparting additional information, or whether it had to be specially created is a separate question.
So I see no fundamental disagreement between A-T philosophy and ID. Only, perhaps, between Dembski's version of ID. Let's hope he replies. I'm betting he will correct or clarify his position.
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Sunday, May 1, 2011
"2. Forming a man from the dust of the ground involves causing the prime matter which had the substantial form of dust to take on instead the substantial form of a man. I'm not sure what "sequence of steps" you have in mind. There's no sequence involved (nor any super-engineering -- God is above such trivia). It's just God "saying," as it were: "Dust, become a man." And boom, you've got your man.
So it seems that Feser is willing to admit that God caused a pre-existing prime matter that had once substantial form to take on a different substantial form. How exactly is this different from the IDists claim that agency was needed for non-living matter to become living matter?
I grow weary of Feser's inability to deal with this issue. I think he's just afraid to admit that he's wrong about anything.