Saturday, December 29, 2012

Z and my Noetic Web

Randal Rauser recently posted what was supposed to be a discussion of Justin Schieber's disproof of God. In the ensuing combox discussion he wrote:

 "Consider an analogy. Imagine that you hear a lecture by a fellow who argues that 9/11 was caused by the US Government. And he provides a powerful case for the conclusion which you are unable to refute. Would it be rational to conclude that the government in fact caused 9/11 based on that single lecture? It might. But for most people such a conspiracy theory would involve revising so many other beliefs, e.g. by adopting multiple levels of corruption and conspiracy in the government, that it would take much more than a single lecture to win one over."

 Randal already knew I was a 9/11 Truther and probably half-expected that I would take advantage of the opportunity to divert the discussion and bring up that issue, which I did. Part of his reply to me was

 "Life is short, and I can't research every case of disagerement among experts. So what I do, what seems reasonable to do, is side with the position that requires the least revisions in my noetic web as well as the position that is represented by the most experts in the relevant fields. In this case both factors are found on the non-conspiracy side."

I think Randal's position is rational (though I think he is mistaken regarding which side the "experts" are on) and probably explains why most people do not take the 9/11 Truth movement seriously. So this led me to ponder yet again my own "noetic web" and why it was so easy for me to accept 9/11 Truth. I think one of the early influences in my own life that made accepting the idea that government (or military) conspiracies happened was seeing the movie Z way back in 1969:

" The film presents a thinly fictionalized account of the events surrounding the assassination of democratic Greek politician Grigoris Lambrakis in 1963. With its satirical view of Greek politics, its dark sense of humor, and its downbeat ending, the film captures the outrage about the military dictatorship that ruled Greece at the time of its making.[2] Z stars Jean-Louis Trintignant as the investigating magistrate (an analogue of Christos Sartzetakis, who 22 years later was appointed President of Greece by democratically elected parliamentarians)."

Watching the film as a 15 year old made crystal clear to me that government conspiracies, especially those backed by military leaders, do in fact occur. And that when they do, it is very difficult to expose them. The film doesn't have a happy ending:

"An epilogue provides a synopsis of the subsequent turns of events. Instead of the expected positive outcome, the prosecutor is mysteriously removed from the case, key witnesses die under suspicious circumstances, the assassins receive (relatively) short sentences, the officers receive only administrative reprimands, the Deputy's close associates die or are deported, and the photojournalist is sent to prison for disclosing official documents.
As the closing credits roll, before listing the cast and crew, the filmmakers first list the things banned by the junta. They include: peace movements, strikes, labor unions, long hair on men, The Beatles, other modern and popular music ("la musique populaire"), Sophocles, Leo Tolstoy, Aeschylus, writing that Socrates was homosexual, Eugène Ionesco, Jean-Paul Sartre, Anton Chekhov, Harold Pinter, Edward Albee, Mark Twain, Samuel Beckett, Trotsky, the bar association, sociology, international encyclopedias, free press, and new math. Also banned is the letter Z, which was used as a symbolic reminder that Grigoris Lambrakis and by extension the spirit of resistance lives (zi = "he (Lambrakis) lives").

If ever there were an actual independent investigation into 9/11, I don't think the end would be any better than in the movie.

Monday, December 24, 2012

My Plans for Christmas Eve

I was trying to decide between watching "It's a Wonderful Life" or "The Polar Express," when I saw Randal Rauser's announcement of a debate he had with Jonathan Pearce on the historical reliability of the Nativity. I'll try listening to it tonight, before I put out the milk and cookies for Mr. C.

Merry Christmas or Seasons Greetings to all and to all a good night.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Richard Carrier Publishes Peer-Reviewed Paper Arguing Accidental Interpolation of "Christ" in Josephus

Noted mythicist, Richard Carrier, has published a peer-reviewed paper that argues:


 Analysis of the evidence from the works of Origen, Eusebius, and Hegesippus concludes that the reference to "Christ" in Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 20.200 is probably an accidental interpolation or scribal emendation and that the passage was never originally about Christ or Christians. It referred not to James the brother of Jesus Christ, but probably to James the brother of the Jewish high priest Jesus ben Damneus.

I'll be interested in seeing what if any reaction New Testament historians have.  My guess is that it will be debated, as most things are among scholars.  But I don't think it will have much impact on whether they think it reduces the probability that Jesus existed.   For example, Bart Ehrman's summary of the evidence for Jesus's existence didn't rely upon Josephus's mention of him.

I would guess that in order for mythicists to be taken seriously, they will need to propose what is considered a legitimate theory that explains how it came about that people believed that Jesus actually existed.

HT: Adam Taylor

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Laws of Internet Atheism

Mike Gene quotes some of David Heddle's Laws of Internet Atheism. I thought they were worth passing on:

The Law of the Converts: Every atheist who claims to have been a devout Christian was. Every Christian who claims to have been an atheist, wasn’t.

The Law of the Biblical Scholars: Atheist biblical scholars are credible because they have no agenda. Christian biblical scholars lack credibility because they have an agenda.
The Law of “When Ken Ham is right, he is really right!: YECs like Ken Ham are the dumbest jackasses in the world. Except when they interpret Genesis One. For that single chapter in the bible they are exegetical savants.
Irrefutable Proof that Miracles can’t happen: Miracles, by definition can’t be explained by science. Everything can be explained by science. Therefore miracles can’t happen. Because they can’t be explained by science. Therefore science and religion are incompatible.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Does Jerry Coyne believe that William Lane Craig has Free Will?

Jerry Coyne appears to be angry with William Lane Craig and believes  that Craig "should rot in hell." (One wonders if Coyne now also believes in an afterlife, where a place called "hell" exists). But here is an example of Coyne apparently blaming somebody, as if that somebody actually had free will and could have acted otherwise than they chose to act.  So does Coyne believe that Craig has free will?

 By the way, Coyne also accuses Craig of saying that "...the recent slaughter is God’s way of reminding us of “what Christmas is for, what it’s all about. And it’s almost as if Craig thinks that God engineered the murders to that end." But if you watch the video, Craig says no such thing. He says that the recent tragedy reminded  him of the story of the Massacre of the Innocents by Herod, not that God engineered the murders.

 Coyne also says, " If asked why God didn’t enter into the world to prevent the killings in the first place, Craig would almost certainly reply that this were God’s will...."  I suggest that if God could have created beings with free will who would not choose to murder, He would have done so.  Given that we have free will (which even Coyne admits by blaming Craig), then apparently this is how God must redeem us.

 Finally, Coyne asks, " Does the Holocaust also bring him such reassurance?" I don't know what Craig's answer would be, but mine would be, "Emmanuel" ("God with us"), even in Auschwitz.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Learning Lessons about Guns from Israel?

I don't have firmly established opinions on the issue of gun ownership, and I try to be open to all ideas on what a reasonable policy for our country should be. So I offer the following article not because I'm convinced that it is correct, but because I think it offers ideas worth thinking about:

  Why Israel has no Newtowns

 HT: Bill Vallicella.

What's missing from this video?

Fox News clip on 9/11 Graffiti.

Monday, December 17, 2012

What to Get for the Geek Who Knows Everything

In case you're having difficulty finding a Christmas present for that special genius in your life:

China/Connecticut Connection?

In case you hadn't heard, there was a violent attack on a number of children at a primary school last Friday morning. No, not the one in Connecticut. The one in China. The perpetrator attacked and seriously injured 22 children.  But nobody was killed.  He didn't have a gun. Only a knife. One might conclude that people don't kill people. People with guns kill people.

But this isn't a post about gun control.  When I first heard the story about the attack in China, I wondered if it was only coincidence or if there was some other connection.  Then it occurred to me that the story about the attack in China might have hit the internet in time for someone to read it in Connecticut and become inspired to try something similar.   Perhaps we'll find out soon enough if that's what happened.  If so, then it brings home in a very sad way how much smaller a world we live in.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

I Don't Understand What Jerry Coyne Means by "Free Will"

 Jerry Coyne just castigated someone for profanely accusing him of denying free will. Jerry labeled his post Someone Doesn't Understand Free Will. He responds,

 "Jane, if you’re going to troll here, at least try to understand what I’m saying, which is that of course there is blame for what one does, and punishment must be meted out for bad deeds."

I certainly don't endorse Jane's choice of language, but I'm afraid I share her lack of understanding in regard to Coyne's views.  We don't blame a rock for falling down instead of up, since we do not think a rock has free will.  It must obey the law of gravity.  It could not do otherwise.  If we do not have free will, then we cannot do otherwise than what we do.  No doubt we can be conditioned to do otherwise, the way one conditions animals to do otherwise.  But we do not blame animals for their actions, because we believe that animals cannot do other than how they are genetically and environmentally "programmed" to behave.  We do not think they have free will.  To say that there is blame for what a human being does is to say that we are different from rocks or animals.  It is to say that we have free will and that we can do other than how we have been genetically or environmentally "programmed" to behave.  To try to say that we have blame but don't have free will is to do a terrible disservice to the meaning of both terms.  Jerry might as well use a few cuss words, since at least they would have more meaning than the nonsense he insists on spewing.

Since I'm banned from Jerry's blog (even though I never came close to using profanity), I'm not able to ask him directly to defend his view.  Perhaps someone else could explain it to me.

Kudos for Larry Moran

It's not often that people who are diametrically opposed to certain views come to the defense of the people who hold those views. That requires a level of intellectual honesty that we all too often lack. So when we see that type of honesty being displayed, we should go out of our way to praise it. I found such an example. Jerry Coyne recently attacked ID proponent Paul Nelson, which should shock nobody.  What did come as a surprise is that the atheist professor of biochemistry, Larry Moran, who typically refers to most ID proponents as "IDiots,"  did come to Nelson's defense.  In the combox, past the halfway mark, Professor Moran chimes in:

Larry Moran Posted December 11, 2012 at 9:45 am | Permalink

" In his letter to Jerry, Paul Nelson said, Readers who already know about the thinking of workers such as Eric Davidson, Michael Lynch, Andreas Wagner, John Gerhart & Marc Kirschner, or Scott Gilbert (all of whom, among many others, have recently expressed frank doubts about selection) must discount what you say about the centrality of natural selection to evolutionary theory — because they know that just isn’t so. I think this is basically correct. All of these authors question in some way or another the “centrality” of natural selection to evolutionary theory. We can quibble about the exact meaning of words and sentences but I, for one, don’t think Nelson is way off base here. Perhaps Nelson shouldn’t have said “expressed doubts about selection” because it could be taken to mean that the authors deny that positive natural selection exists. I don’t think that’s what Paul Nelson meant. He may be an IDiot but he’s not that stupid. (Shapiro, on the other hand, may be that stupid.) Jerry wrote to the authors stating … I have read the papers of many of you, and while I know that several of you question aspects of modern evolutionary theory, I wasn’t aware that any of you denied the efficacy of selection in accounting for adaptations. I’m not speaking here of the prevalence among episodes of evolutionary change of selection versus other mechanisms such as drift, but of the prevalence of selection in explaining obvious adaptations like mimicry, the speed of cheetahs, and so on. I don’t think Jerry’s question is fair. Paul Nelson was not accusing these authors of denying a role for natural selection in “obvious adaptations.” The irony here is that Jim Shapiro is completely oblivious to the ideas of Kirschner, Gerhart, Lynch, et al. He acts as though he’s the only person in the entire world who ever came up with a criticism of the hardened version of the Modern Synthesis. (Anyone ever heard of Stephen Jay Gould?) Sometimes he even “borrows” the ideas of others—like when he talks of his version of facilitated variation but doesn’t bother referencing Kisrchner & Gerhart."

And then after a brief exchange where Moran asked Nelson to clarify his views, Larry concluded:

 Larry Moran Posted December 13, 2012 at 5:03 am | Permalink

" Thanks, Paul. I interpreted your letter the same way you describe it but you must admit that you could have worded it better. Jerry Coyne jumped to the conclusion that you were saying something different about the views of those authors. I think your views have been unfairly represented in this thread. That does NOT mean I agree with your conclusions, as you well know."

After showing such gallantry in the face of overwhelming opposition at Coyne's blog, Professor Moran deserves to be held in high esteem. I now consider his use of the term "IDiots" as almost a term of endearment.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Where are the Twenty Children?

See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish." (Matthew 18:10-14)

I think it is safe to assume that they are with their Father in heaven.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Five Things that We Rationally Believe that Science Cannot Prove

William Lane Craig lists five things that are rational to believe that science cannot prove:

I'm not sure about the fifth one that deals with the speed of light, but the first four are rather clear.

HT: Jeffrey Helix, in a comment at Mike Gene's post, which also deals with the problems of scientism.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sam Harris's Refrigerator-Sized Diamond and God

In an interesting discussion in the comments of one of Randal Rauser's posts,  J.Riv directed me to a lecture by Sam Harris, where Harris compared people who say they need to believe in God for their lives to have meaning (well, actually the need to believe that God answers prayer) to a man who says he needs to believe that there is a refrigerator-sized diamond buried in his backyard, and that finding it will bring meaning and fulfillment to his life:

Having thought more about it, I would say that this man is irrational on three counts:

1)  He believes that there are refrigerator-sized diamonds.
2)  He believes that there is one buried in his backyard.
3)  He believes that finding it will bring meaning and fulfillment to his life.

Now let's suppose that the man finds reasonably strong evidence that refrigerator-sized diamonds exist and that one probably is buried in his backyard.  Would I consider such a man to be rational?  No.  Because he still believes that finding it will bring meaning and fulfillment to his life.  To believe such a thing is to reveal that you are really sub-human.  There is something about you that falls below what it means to be a human being.

To admit that one needs to believe in God in order to have meaning in one's life is saying that existence must ultimately be good and beautiful and the end of all our desires.   Such an admission is not irrational, but the proclamation that we are more than just machines, or accidental evolutionary products struggling for survival.  We are beings made for something much greater than ourselves.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

John W. Loftus and The Ideologue Barometer

Randal Rauser relates a discussion he's had with John Loftus about their upcoming book, God or Godless . The most interesting thing was the test Rauser offered on how to tell how much of an ideologue you were:

 "Since everything needs a snappy name I’ll call it the Ideologue Barometer. Ask yourself this: if I were invited to discuss the three things that most bother me about my belief system, how quickly could I come up with a list and how long could I talk about them? The longer it would take you to compile the list and the shorter the ensuing speech, the more ideologically committed you are to your beliefs."

This reminds me a great deal of Mike Gene's Ten Signs of Intellectual Honesty.  So let me give myself the test:

 My theological belief system:

 1. If God exists, why isn't His existence as obvious as the physical world? 2. Why is there so much pain and suffering? 3. Why isn't there better historical evidence for Jesus and his resurrection? 4. How can God know the future and there still be free will? 5. Why are there so many morally questionable things in the Bible about God (Canaanite genocide, etc.)? 6. Why are there so many contradictory religions to my own?

 My beliefs about 9/11:

 1. If 9/11 was an inside job, why didn't the Democrats demand an independent investigation? 2. Why didn't Obama re-open the investigation when he took office? 3. Why weren't there more leaks? 4. Why wasn't there more converage in the mainstream media? 5. Why didn't Bush and Co. manufacture evidence for WMDs in Iraq? 6. Isn't the thought that people at the highest level of our government would be willing to murder thousands of their own citizens just a little too incredible?*

  Okay. That took less than five minutes. Does anyone out there care to make a list of problems with their own belief systems?

* I forgot one: 7. How could the inside job have been pulled off without being noticed by countless numbers of people?

Tolkien's Terrible Influence on C.S. Lewis

When you go to see "The Hobbit" this coming weekend, be warned!  My creator was part of a grand conspiracy to turn C.S. Lewis from his comfortable atheism into one of those...Christians.

HT: Victor Reppert and Bob Prokop

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Dave Brubeck Passed Away Today

HT: James F. McGrath

Dave Brubeck: Cosmic Variance

My favorite album of all time was Brubeck's "Countdown: Time in Outer Space," though I believe the above music video of "Blue Rondo a la Turk," was from his album, "Time Further Out." Scratch that.  It was from "Time Out."

Monday, December 3, 2012

Vincent Torley vs John Loftus on Whether ID is Science

Vincent Torley, pt.1
John Loftus, pt.1
Vincent Torley, pt.2
John Loftus, pt.2

UPDATE:  Instead of writing another reply at Uncommon Descent, Vincent Torley is posting his replies at John Loftus's last thread.

Stand by for Torley's reply, which I expect will pop up anytime, now.  Loftus misunderstands the distinction between accepting evolution and common descent and disagreeing with what the mechanism for it is.  He also misunderstands the difference between what ID claims to be able to infer:  Not a specific religion, nor the identity of the designer.  Just that something was designed by somebody.

However, I think Loftus does make a good point:  If Nature wasn't (pretty much) regular, we couldn't have science.  So in what sense could design events be considered science?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Two Trees and a Cat

In the Garden of Eden there were two trees: The tree of life and the tree of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. We were told not to eat from the second tree. We ate from it so that we could be like God, knowing good and evil. That meant that we didn't need to trust God anymore. We could know on our own what was right or wrong and make our own choices. And if God did or said something, we could judge whether what He said or did was right or wrong and then decide whether we should trust Him or not.

 I recently trapped and neutered a feral cat and decided to keep him. And now he hides under beds and couches, trying to avoid me, since he knows that I am evil and will try to kill and eat him. I'm worried, because he doesn't seem to be eating or drinking anything, and I don't know how long he can survive. So I seek relationship with a cat. And the cat has no faith in me.

 I wonder if God is trying to tell me something.

Taylor Speaks Truth to Power

When I saw the title, Taylor Contra Power, I felt the need to improve upon it.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Rabbi Daniel Zion

Not many people know the story of Rabbi Daniel Zion, the chief rabbi of Bulgaria during World War II, who helped save the Bulgarian Jews from the Nazis, and then led them to immigrate to Israel after the war. The big secret was that he believed that Yeshua (Jesus) was the Messiah.

Who's More Closed-Minded? The Right or the Left?

I had just read one of Paul Krugman's latest blog entries and then read Evolution News and Views latest entry and was surprised at their apparent agreement about the open-mindedness of liberals and closed-mindedness of conservatives.

No doubt, if we asked ENV if they felt this was a truth that could be generalized to all issues, they would disagree and offer plenty of data that suggests that liberals can be just as closed-minded regarding other issues.

My own view is that most people, including yours truly, have difficulty listening to views with which we disagree.  I don't think it matters much whether we are conservative or liberal.  We all want to think we are right about most topics and shy away from anyone who might threaten that self-image.

UPDATE:  I guess I should add that in my case, since most of my views are obviously true, there is no need for me to read the views of those who disagree with me. ;)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Funds for Replication Study of WTC Dust Being Sought

For information on the the first peer-reviewed paper of the WTC dust, which claims that active thermitic material was found in it, and the recent attempt that claimed it could not replicate the results of the experiments, but really didn't try to replicate the experiments, go here.

 If you feel like chipping in a couple of bucks for the new, single-blind study, go here.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

How to Lure Unsuspecting Atheists

"I don't primarily see apologetics as the winning of arguments or converts," writes Randal Rauser, associate professor of historical theology, in his new book, The Swedish Atheist, the Scuba Diver and Other Apologetic Rabbit Trails. "Rather, apologetics is the discovery of truth through a winding, weaving, honest, aimless, pointless, and completely purposeful conversation to which two or more people desperately want to understand the way things really are."

But how does one strike up such a conversation with an atheist? Rauser offers an imaginative attempt, where he and the Reader decide to visit a local, college town coffee shop. "Let me share a tip for getting the grande conversation going," says Randal. "Employ strategically placed conversation starters. For example...." he reaches into his book bag and pulls out a shiny silver copy of Richard Dawkins's bestseller The God Delusion. "No atheist can walk by without sharing a comment on Dawkins."  With that, he places the book prominently on the edge of the pitted coffee table, slightly propped up by the corner of a couple of Mother Jones magazines for better visibility.

"Here's another conversation starter," he says as he opens his laptop. Pasted on the back of the case are two stickers, a Darwin fish and an ichthus. He taps the stickers. "Great catalysts for conversation since many people still pit Darwin against God. Whatever your views on that topic, these two stickers are bound to get people talking. That's the great thing about having a laptop. You can treat it like a portable billboard. Set up shop pretty much anywhere, pop the lid with your evocative stickers, and wait. The possibilities are endless. Just imagine the inquiries if you plastered on an 'Anarchists for Jesus' bumper sticker!"

Needless to say, Rauser's tactics work. He hooks an atheist, reels him in and begins the grande conversation of two people who desperately want to understand the way things really are. I haven't finished the book, but so far, it's been a good read.

What a Gravity-Driven Demolition Looks Like

In the previous post, professional engineer Jonathan Cole referred to the gravity-driven demolition method known as "verinage" and claimed that if one measured it's collapse, it would reveal that there was a "jolt," unlike the collapses in the North Tower and Building 7. And indeed, high school physics teacher David Chandler did just that, using a special program that measured the rate of acceleration of the collapse. The point is that in gravity-driven collapses, whether natural or man-made, if resistance is encountered there will be deceleration or a "jolt." In order to have no deceleration, the cause of resistance must be removed.

UPDATE: I thought I would add Chandler's original video, "The Downward Acceleration of the North Tower."

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Larry Moran's Posts on Michael Behe's Arguments

Larry Moran was kind enough to provide one place where one can find his discussions of Michael Behe's arguments for intelligent design, so I thought I would pass it on to those of you who might be as interested in them as I am.

  Update: For what it's worth, coming from a layman, I think most of Moran's arguments against Behe are rather weak. The strongest one is based on Michael Lynch's views of how evolution works. But I'm not sure the scientific community fully accepts Lynch's views.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Election is Over: Long Live the King!

The Colossian Forum offers a very important reminder:

"On the evening of the election, as polls were closing and first returns would begin to stream in, I was amazed: here were 200 parishioners at church on election night, eager to learn about ecclesiology, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. What kind of place is this?, I asked myself. 

Rob then stood up to introduce me, but first began with this announcement: “I know it’s election night, and I have some very important news that you’ll all be interested to hear: Jesus is still the risen King!” Brilliant. And true. And just the kind of centering confession the body of Christ needs to hear in fractious times.

Using "Blazing Saddles" and the N-word

In 2011 Turner Classics explained why they were about to show a film that used the N-word. That film was "Blazing Saddles", which, I just found out, was co-written by and supposed to star Richard Pryor:

"Brooks’ sledgehammer style of comedy can often fall somewhat wide of the mark, as it has in other movies. (‘Young Frankenstein’ being the only other exception I can think of.) The challenging use of the N word in ‘Blazing Saddles’ (the film was originally to have been called ‘Black Bart’) and jokes about rape were a huge risk back in 1974 (and still are now) but it all works thanks to the input of another great comedy genius, the late Richard Pryor, who was involved as a co-screenwriter on the film and who had intended on playing the part of Sheriff Bart himself. This would have marked his first buddy match-up with Gene Wilder of course, but it was not to be. Financial backers balked at Pryor’s dangerously challenging image. They were so afraid that middle America would stay away in droves if Pryor were in the role, they forced Brooks to recast the part with Cleavon Little. Little did a superb job, but he could never quite fill the huge boots left at the end of his bed. Pryor and Wilder would go on to create a string of hugely successful odd couple comedies, like ‘Silver Streak’ (1976) and ‘Stir Crazy’ (1980) instead."

Too bad Pryor wasn't in it. It would have been much funnier (and because of the script it already is very funny).

But that film was made in 1974, before use of the N-word was totally forbidden. And I think it is good that the N-word is forbidden. All words that degrade classes of people will, I think, not exist in Heaven. But now the question arises, is it proper to show parts of the movie "Blazing Saddles"? And if we do show it, should we "bleep out" the N-word? And as the author of a blog should I refuse to show parts of the movie if the N-word isn't bleeped out?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Advice for Obama

Even though all of us genuine liberals know (or should know) that Obama is just another lackey of Corporate America, which really runs Washington, for four years Rush Limbaugh and Co. have been telling white, conservative, blue collar workers that Obama is a Muslim, communist, socialist, nazi, who isn't even a citizen of the U.S.   And now that Obama has been re-elected, I'm afraid far too many of them are angry and desperate and feel that they must take matters into their own hands. My advice to Obama? I don't know if this trick will work, but it might be his only chance:  

Yes, they are dumb.  But I don't know if they are that dumb.  Good luck!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

U.S. admits Abu Zubaydah wasn't part of al Qaeda

I'm falling behind in my blog reading, and just got around to reading Kevin Ryan's fascinating post on (formerly) alleged al Qaeda operative, Abu Zubaydah:

"Abu Zubaydah, a man once called al-Qaeda’s “chief of operations,” appears to be at the center of an unraveling of the official myth behind al Qaeda. After his capture in early 2002, Zubaydah was the first “detainee” known to be tortured. The information allegedly obtained from his torture played a large part in the creation of the official account of 9/11 and in the justification for the continued use of such torture techniques. Yet in September, 2009, the U.S. government admitted that Zubaydah was never a member or associate of al Qaeda at all. These facts raise an alarming number of questions about the veracity of our knowledge about al Qaeda, and the true identity of the people who are said to be behind the 9/11 attacks.

Unlike other alleged al Qaeda leaders, including Khlaid Sheik Mohammed and Rasmi bin Alshibh, Zubaydah has never been charged with a crime. As these other leading suspects await their continually-postponed military trial, Zubaydah is instead being airbrushed out of history. Why would the U.S. government want us to forget Zubaydah, the first and most important al Qaeda operative captured after 9/11?

Read more.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Neo-Darwinist Makes Major Concession that Behe is Right

Dennis Venema, a Christian Evolutionary Creationist (which means that he is a neo-Darwinist who is also a Christian) made what I consider to be a major concession: that Michel Behe is right about the limits of what neo-Darwinian processes are able to accomplish. Venema, while explaining the latest findings of Lenski's lab, stated:

"If indeed all five (or more) mutations needed for this transition to Cit+ in the LTEE were required simultaneously, we could be confident that the trait would never arise.

Put more simply, Behe is right that numerous mutations occurring simultaneously are too rare to expect in evolution.

This was the essential point that Michael Behe was attempting to make in his book, The Edge of Evolution: that if more than two or three simultaneous mutations for the evolution of a feature were needed, then that feature would never evolve. After all of Venema's efforts at refuting Behe (and he's been at it for quite a while, now), he finally gets around to admitting that Behe is right: There is an edge or limit to what neo-Darwinism can accomplish.

In fairness, Venema goes on to state: "What he [Behe] has not demonstrated, however, is that evolution must proceed only by numerous mutations occurring simultaneously.

Perhaps Venema is correct. But it's difficult to know how anyone could ever show that evolution had to occur that way. There might, afterall, be some unknown evolutionary pathway where things proceeded, one selective mutation at a time. But I would suggest that the burden of proof is on neo-Darwinists to show that this is indeed the case and that the whole history of evolution can be explained by this process. To just blindly believe that it can be, without demonstration, requires one of the greatest leaps of faith ever known.

Venema thinks that it at least has been demonstrated in one case:

With the LTEE, we have direct evidence of what Behe defines as a “noteworthy gain-of-FCT mutation” occurring step by step, without the need for simultaneous mutations.

I'll be curious to see if Behe agrees with Venema's assessment.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Craving Sweets? Eat Sour.

So I'm driving to the hardware store, listening to the radio, when John Tesh offers one of his endless tips for living. This time its for fat people like me: Whenever I crave sweets, I should eat something sour, instead. It will take away the craving for sweets. So after the hardware store I stop at the supermarket and pick up a jar of sliced dill pickles. It's been less than 24 hours, but so far it's working. How do I know? I have a house full of leftover Halloween candy that I haven't devoured, yet.

 This tip for living brought to you by the blog that not only discusses superficial topics like whether or not there is a God, or how to know if your government is out to get you, but also the really important things, like how to lose weight.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Non-Romney Arguments Against Obama

The Egalicontrarian links to two articles that offer arguments not to vote for Obama. Both authors also recommend not voting for Romney and suggest voting for a third party candidate, instead.

When Homer reveals that Clinton and Dole were really Kodos and Kang in disguise, someone suggests voting for a third part candidate. Kodos (or was it Kang?) laughs and says, "Go ahead! Throw your vote away!"

I'm still undecided.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sherlock Holmes Movie and 9/11 Truth

Just wondering if anyone else out there noticed the similarity between the second Sherlock Holmes movie, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and the 9/11 Truth Movement?

UPDATE: The movie opens with a bombing by an anarchist group at the Strasborg Cathedral in 1891. As far as I can tell there was no such bombing. However, al-Qaeda is supposed to have attempted bombing the Strasborg Cathedral in 2000.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

If There's no Free Will, Can there be Free Speech?

Jerry Coyne, who believes that there is no such thing as free will is worried about the erosion of free speech. I tried pointing out the contradiction inherent in his position a few months ago and was banned from his blog for my efforts. I haven't stopped laughing about the irony of it all ever since.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Don't Blame Me, I Voted for Kodos

Halloween is coming up, followed shortly by the election.  In honor of both, I offer the punchline of one of my favorite Simspon's Halloween Specials:

I'm still trying to decide whether to vote for Kang or Kodos.

Let's Suppose We Were Designed by Aliens

Let's suppose that Elizabeth Shaw was right, that we had indeed been designed by extraterrestrial beings. Would that make them our gods, to whom we offer worship and homage? By the end of the movie "Prometheus" I think it is clear to Elizabeth that the answer is NO. She still believes that the aliens made us, but she now realizes that they mean us harm, and that we have the right to defend ourselves against them. Yet it's also clear that she has not lost her faith in God. It's reasonable to assume that Elizabeth has finally made a distinction between the proximal cause of our existence -- what was it that most closely in time was the cause of our coming into being -- and the ultimate cause.

ID proponents, such as I, could have strengthened Elizabeth's position that the aliens were our Engineers.  We could point out that there is no plausible non-intelligent design explanation for the origin of life, and that it looks very much like someone designed the first cells.  Most of us believe that God was the designer.  But it seems to be at least logically possible that God was not the proximal cause of our existence, but that there was some intelligence that was the intermediate cause of our being.

There would still be the problem of what we commonly call our "souls."  In the movie, it is pointed out that the robot, David, does not have a soul.  We also find out that the aliens have indeed created a particular form of life that most of us would agree does not have a soul.  For those of us who believe that that there are souls, would this be a problem for alien design?  I think not.  There seem to be two views of what souls are.  Either they are a separate substance from matter, that has been put into an intimate relationship with it, that we call ourselves - soul and body.  The second view is that there is some kind of emergent property in matter, such that if it takes the right form, it has what can be said to be a soul.  If the first view is correct, then we can imagine that when the aliens design the physical parts that become us, at some point in time God infuses this physical part with the substance of soul.  If the second view is correct, then once the aliens have put matter into the proper form, the property of being or having a soul will occur.

For those of us who believe in God, we could then, along with Elizabeth Shaw, still believe that we were designed by aliens.  We might owe gratitude to them,  just as we owe gratitude to our parents.  But we owe our worship to the one God who is the ultimate cause of all of us, regardless of what planet we're from.  So if on some starry night a flying saucer lands in your backyard and Kodos and Kang  emerge and tell you that they created you and that you should worship them,  just tell them you appreciate their bringing you into existence, but that there is only One to whom you will bow down.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

"Prometheus" on Faith: Miss

After the crew of the Prometheus wake up from their hypersleep, a hologram from the (supposedly) dead CEO of the expedition, Peter Weyland, introduces them to the two archeologists who have inspired the trip, Charlie Holloway and Elizabeth Shaw, who then step forward and address the crew (here):

Charlie Holloway: ... Okay. Let me show you why you guys are here.
[he holds up a cube places it on the floor and opens up another hologram showing images]
Charlie Holloway: These are images of archaeological digs from all over the earth.
[pointing to the different images]
Charlie Holloway: That's Egyptian, Mayan, Sumerian, Babylonian. That's Hawaiian at the end there and Mesopotamian. Now this one here is our most recent discovery, it's a thirty five thousand year old cave painting from the Isle of Sky in Scotland. These are ancient civilizations, they were separated by centuries, they shared no contact with one another, and yet...
[he gathers the hologram images to line up and he goes through each one]
Charlie Holloway: The same pictogram, showing men worshiping giant beings pointing to the stars was discovered at every last one of them. The only galactic system that matched, was so far from earth, that there's no way that these primitive ancient civilizations could have possibly known about. But it just so happens, that system has a sun, a lot like ours. And based on our long range scans, there seemed to be a planet. Just one planet with the moon, capable of sustaining life, and we arrived there this morning.

[after Holloway has given his presentation about the pictorgrams to the crew]
Fifield: So you're saying we're here because of a map you two kids found in a cave, is that right?
Elizabeth Shaw: No.
Charlie Holloway: Yeah. Um...
Elizabeth Shaw: No. Not a map. An invitation.
Fifield: From whom?
Elizabeth Shaw: We call them Engineers.
Fifield: Engineers? Do you mind um...telling us what they engineered?
Elizabeth Shaw: They engineered us.
Fifield: Bullshit! 
Millburn: Okay, so you have anything to back that up? I mean, look, if you're willing to discount three centuries of Darwinism, that's...wooh! But how do you know? Mm?
Elizabeth Shaw: I don't. But it's what I choose to believe.

Here, Elizabeth is uses the exact same answer as her father used with her.  But notice the difference:  Her father was referring to the existence and quality of the afterlife, something beyond our ability to observe or perform experiments upon, and saying that he chose to believe that it existed and that it was beautiful.  Elizabeth is choosing to believe that the pictures in the archaeological digs were not just made by aliens - a not unreasonable hypothesis, given the evidence that Charlie has presented - but that these aliens are our "Engineers."    Now if she just wanted this to be a private, personal belief,  there wouldn't be a problem.  But this is a belief that she wants others to believe, also.  Yet she has provided no evidence or reasoning for them to accept this belief.  Just her own personal decision.  One wonders how Peter Weyland, the entrepreneur who has funded this whole expedition was convinced to accept her belief.

But it becomes even more puzzling when later the team that explores the planet find the fossilized remains of the aliens and conclude that Elizabeth was right.  What?  So they found aliens.  How does this prove that the aliens were our Engineers?   Later, we find out that the aliens' DNA is a perfect match to human DNA.  At that point I would think this would make somebody say, "Hey, the aliens weren't our Engineers!  They were our ancestors!"  But no, somehow this discovery is supposed to support Elizabeth's belief.  Still later, we find out that the aliens weren't very nice people, and Elizabeth undergoes a crisis of faith.   Even the robot David taunts her with the observation that her God had forsaken her.   Did Elizabeth think the aliens were her God?  It's all a bit confusing.

At some point Elizabeth seems to realize and accept that the aliens aren't God, or not from God, or whatever. At least, there's a brief scene were she looks up and nods, as if she's somehow sorted it all out, or decided to continue to believe in God, in spite of all that's gone wrong. But we the audience are never quite sure what Elizabeth's theology had been, nor what it is supposed to be now. It might have helped if she had sat down with a good theologian and worked all this out, before making some rather hasty leaps of faith. Or at the very least she might have read what Edward Feser had to say about it.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

"Prometheus" on Faith: Hit and Miss

Even though I had already seen the film "Prometheus" on the big screen, I rented the DVD, both hoping for special features (nope) and to refresh my memory about what the movie had to say about faith.  For "Prometheus" tries to be a religious movie.  And I think sometimes it gets it right, and sometimes not.  First, a scene where it gets it right (from here):

[on the ship, Prometheus, David checks on the crew who are in hypersleep, he gazes upon Shaw and sees what she's dreaming of, which is from her childhood when she is with her father in a foreign land looking at a funeral procession]
Young Shaw: What happened to that man?
Shaw's Father: He died.
Young Shaw: Why aren't you helping them?
Shaw's Father: They don't want my help. They're God's different than ours.
Young Shaw: Why did he die?
Shaw's Father: Sooner or later everyone does.
Young Shaw: Like mommy?
Shaw's Father: Like mommy.
Young Shaw: Where do they go?
Shaw's Father: Everyone has their own word; heaven, paradise. Whatever it's called, it's someplace beautiful.
Young Shaw: How do you know it's beautiful?
Shaw's Father: Cause that's what I choose to believe. What do you believe, darling?
[at that point David comes out of watching the dream]

I think this is right.  Elizabeth Shaw's father is teaching his daughter that when it comes to questions about the afterlife, it finally comes down to what you're willing to believe about it.  And choosing to believe that there is one, and that it is a good one, is perfectly acceptable.   It's a lesson that will guide Elizabeth's life.  

So far, I think the film gets faith right.  But then it gets it wrong soon afterwards.  Next time.

Feser Continues His Defense of Nagel

Edward Feser defends Thomas Nagel against Leiter and Weisberg's review in Nagel and his Critics, Part II.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Bill Vallicella tries to take on Paul Krugman

The maverick philosopher, Bill Vallicella, whose views of philosophy and religion I am beginning to admire greatly, takes issue with Paul Krugman (whose views on economics I am beginning to admire equally as much), in Left, Right and Debt.

First, let me point out that Vallicella's veiled implications that  Krugman is  a communist are completely false, not to mention unfair.  Krugman is not a communist.  He's  not even a "socialist."  He has full faith in a properly regulated capitalist system.

Next, I do agree with Vallicella that Krugman's analogy breaks down. The government owes money to whoever has leant it. That is why the important part of Krugman's argument is that as long as the tax base is bigger than the debt that is owed, this isn't a significant problem. The problem is when we choose not to raise taxes in order to repay it. Before Reagan, the highest tax rate in America was around 70%. Under Reagan this was reduced, I believe, to around the 36% level, even though the Reagan administration increased government spending enormously for much additional military spending. Two things happened as a consequence: Many jobs were created (by government spending on new military projects) and the government debt more than doubled (and by the Bush I years, more than quadrupled).  Under Clinton, the highest tax rate was raised slightly, which combined with other factors resulted in a few years of government surplus, which lead to a small reduction of government debt.

Then Bush II got elected and reduced the highest tax rate even more than Reagan, and the government debt began skyrocketing again, especially because of the two wars we were fighting.  Bush kept the war budget separate from the general budget, so that the overall debt looked smaller than it actually was.  When Obama got elected, he combined the war budget with the general budget, and suddenly the overall debt grew enormously.  Silly Democrat.  Truth only makes you look bad.

But should Vallicella continue to read Krugman, he'll find out that we are in a liquidity trap:  private investors  do not have the funds for entrepreneurial projects, and are not yet willing to borrow large sums to invest in them.  Since private sources are not yet willing to spend large sums of money, then in order to get our economy going, it will take large sums of government spending.   (By the way, if Vallicella continues to read Krugman, he'll learn that this is the problem that Greece and other European countries are facing.  If they were not in the European Union, they could simply increase debt and spend their way out of their recessions.  But because they are in the EU, their hands are tied by the austerity policies imposed by the other members of the Union.)  Once consumers have money to spend, investors will be willing to grow businesses where consumers can buy things.  But of course, this means that government debt will have to increase first.   Which is only a problem if we are not willing to increase taxes.  but then as Krugman so eloquently puts it, "The fault, then, is not in our debt, but in ourselves."

The Metamucil Scale

Randal Rauser offers an objective unit of measurement for people who are a challenge to get along with: The Metamucil Scale. I would rate myself at 0 spoonfuls. Anyone who disagrees with me is a 5 spoonful type of person.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Bill Vallicella: Is Heaven Real?

The maverick philosopher, Bill Vallicella, discusses Is Heaven Real? A Neurosurgeon's Near Death Experiences, and offers some very good insights:

A second concern of mine is this. How does Dr Alexander know that his wonderful experiences didn't suddenly arise just as the cortex was coming back into action just before his eyes popped open? So even if his cortex was for a long time completely nonfunctional, the experience he remembers could have been simply a dream that arose while the cortex was coming back 'on line.' My point is not the the doctor has not given us evidence that mental functioning occurs in the absence of brain activity; I believe he has. My point is that the evidence is not compelling. 

 Our predicament in this life is such that we cannot prove such things as that God exists, that life has meaning, that the will is free, that morality is not an illusion, and that we survive our bodily deaths. But we cannot prove the opposites either. It is reasonable to maintain each of these views. Many arguments and considerations can be adduced. Among the evidence is a wide range of religious, mystical and paranormsl experiences including near-death and out-of-body experiences. The cumulative case is impressive but not conclusive. It rationalizes, but does not establish. Philosophers. of course, are ever in quest of 'knock-down' arguments. This is because you are no philosopher if you don't crave certainty. Ohne Gewissheit kann ich eben nicht leben! Husserl once exclaimed. But so far no 'knock-down' arguments have been found.

 In the final analysis, lacking proof one way or the other, you must decide what you will believe and how you will live.

 I would add that the 'living' is more important than the 'believing.' It is far better to live in a manner to deserve immortality than to hold beliefs and give arguments about the matter.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Why Can't the Existence of Rational Beings be a Fluke?

Bill Vallicella continues his defense of Thomas Nagel's book, Mind and Cosmos.   I've copied his argument here:

For Nagel, the existence of rational animals is not a brute fact or fluke or cosmic accident.  Nagel's somewhat sketchy argument (see p. 86) is along these lines:

1. There are organisms capable of reason.
2. The possibility of such beings must have been there from the beginning.
3. This possibility, however, must be grounded in and explained by the nature of the cosmos.
4. What's more, the nature of the cosmos must explain not only the possibiity but also the actuality of rational animals: their occurrence cannot be a brute fact or cosmic accident.

I take Nagel to be maintaining that the eventual existence of some rational beings or other is no accident but is included in the nature of things from the beginning -- which is consistent with maintaining that there is an element of chance involved in the appearance of any particular instance of reason such as Beethoven.  So eventually nature must produce beings capable of understanding it.  We are such beings. "Each of our lives is part of the lengthy process of the universe waking up and becoming aware of itself." (85)
Nagel's thesis is not obvious.   Why can't reason be a fluke?  Even if we grant Nagel that the intelligibility of nature could not have been a fluke or brute fact, how does it follow that the actual existence of some rational beings or other, beings capable of 'glomming onto' the world's intelligible structure, is not a fluke?  Nagel's argument needs some 'beefing up'  so that it can meet this demand.

1. Let's start with the idea that nature is intelligible.  Why?  That the world is intelligible is a presupposition of all inquiry.  The quest for understanding rests on the assumption that the world is understandable, and indeed by us.  The most successful form of this quest is natural science.  The success of the scientific quest is evidence that the presupposition holds and is not merely a presupposition we make.  The scientific enterprise reveals to us an underlying intelligible order of things not open to perception alone, although of course the confirmation of scientific theories requires perception and the various instruments that extend it.
2.  Now what explains this underlying rational order? Two possibilities.  One is that nothing does: it's a brute fact.  It just happens to be the case that the world is understandable by us, but it might not have been.  The rational order of things underpins every explanation but  itself has no explanation.  The other possibility is that the rational order has an explanation, in which case it has an explanation by something distinct from it, or else is self-explanatory.  On theism, the world's  rational order is grounded in the divine intellect and is therefore explained by God.  On what I take to be Nagel's view, the rational order is self-explanatory, a necessary feature of anything that could count as a cosmos.
Nagel views the intelligibility of the world as "itself part of the deepest explanation why things are as they are." (17).  Now part of the way things are is that they are understandable by us.  Given that the way things are is intelligible, it follows that the intelligibility of the world is self-explanatory or self-grounding.
Our second premise, then, is that the intelligibilty of the world is self-explanatory, hence a necessary feature of anything that could count as a cosmos.
3.  Our third premise is that intelligibility is an an inherently mind-involving notion.  Necessarille, then x is intelligible to some actual or possible mind.  Nothing is understandable unless it is at least possible that there exist  some being with the power of understanding. 
The conjunction of these three premises entails the possibility of rational beings, but not the actuality of them. There would seem to be a gap in Nagel's reasoning.  The world is intelligible, and its intelligibility is a necessary feature of it.  From this we can infer that, necessarily, if the cosmos exists, then it is possible that there be rational beings.  But that is as far as we can get with these three premises.
4.  What Nagel seems to need is a principle of plenitude that allows us to pass from the possibility of rational beings to their actual existence.  J. Hintikka has ascribed to Aristotle a form of the principle according to which every genuine possibility must at some time become actual.  This would do the trick, but to my knowledge Nagel make no mention of any such principle.
5.  I suggest that theism is in a better position when it comes to explaining how both intelligibility and mind  are non-accidental.  Intelligibility is grounded in the divine intellect which necessarily exists.  So there must be at least one rational being.  We exist contingently, but the reason in us derives from a noncontingent source. 

I'm wondering if Nagel might have another option, instead of 4 or 5.  Would a claim that the existence of rational beings is a fluke itself be another appeal to brute fact?  If so, then given that we are rejecting brute fact as an explanation for existence itself, would it be reasonable to reject it as an explanation for the existence of rational beings?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Amend 2012

I just found out that one of my favorite people, Robert Reich, has his own blog. I didn't realize that he is the chairman of Common Cause, which is spearheading the movement for a constitutional amendment that would not allow corporations to be legal persons. You can sign the petition at

George McGovern: The Man I Wish I had Voted For

Jerry Coyne just brought to our attention that George McGovern died. I agree with everythng Jerry says about him. I turned 18 in 1972 and would have had the opportunity to vote for McGovern. But as too many irresponsible teenagers, I put off registering to vote until it was too late. So I could only watch as McGovern went down to inevitable defeat.

Many people would approach McGovern later and say, "I voted for you," and he would reply,  "So you're the one."  I wish I could have been one of the ones.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Jesus Problem

R.Joseph Hoffman has written an intriguing article on the problem of who Jesus was: Liberal Scarecrows, Shadows, and Atheist Internet Experts. A few excerpts:

As someone who actively entertained the possibility [that Jesus didn't exist] for years, I can report that the current state of the question is trending consistently in the direction of the historicity of Jesus and partly the wishful thinking of the mythtics is responsible for the trend. The myth theory, in its current, dyslectic and warmed over state, has erected the messiest of all the Jesuses in the field, constructed mainly from scraps discarded by the liberals and so startling (perhaps inevitably) that it looks more like an Egyptian god than a man, less a coherent approach to its object than an explosion of possibilities and mental spasms. Like all bad science, its supporters (mainly internet bloggers and scholarly wannabes) began the quest with their pet conclusion, then looked for evidence by alleging that anything that counted against it was false, apologetically driven, or failed the conspiracy smell-test. A survey of the (highly revised and hideously written) Wikipedia article on the Christ Myth Theory shows its depressing recent history–from a theory that grew organically out of the history-of-religion approach to Christianity (which drove my own work in critical studies) to a succession of implausibilities and splices as limitless as there were analogies to splice.

Yet the myth theory is explained by the woeful history of liberal scholarship: ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. It is a direct result of the mess liberal scholarship made of itself. If the problem with “liberal” scholarship (the name itself suggests the fallacy that guides the work) is that a flimsy, fact-free, wordless Jesus could be a magician, a bandit, an eschatologist, a radical, a mad prophet, a sane one, a tax revolutionary, a reforming rabbi (anything but Jesus the son of God)–the mythical Jesus could be Hercules, Osiris, Mithras, a Pauline vision, a Jewish fantasy, a misremembered amalgam of folk tales, a rabbi’s targum about Joshua. In short–the mirror image of the confusion that the overtheoretical and under-resourced history of the topic had left strewn in the field. If the scarecrows concocted by the liberals were made from rubble, the mythtic Jesuses were their shadows. If the bad boys of the Jesus Seminar had effectively declared that the evidence to hand means Jesus can be anything you want him to be, there is some justice in the view that Jesus might be nothing at all.

Yes, I think Hoffman makes a good point. Secular New Testament scholarship is in something of a pickle. It rejects the supernatural explanation that the New Testament authors assumed was true. But once scholars do that they are unable to provide a consistent, plausible explanation for who Jesus was. All they offer are "scarecrows." And there isn't much difference between their scarecrows and the shadows the mythicists offer in their place. And yes, this means I've added yet another blog to my list.

The Difference between "Mythicists" and 9/11 Truthers

New Testament scholar Larry Hurtado compares "Mythicists" with 9/11 Truthers, rather unfavorably:

Perhaps the most puzzling claim, that would be amusing were it not apparently asserted so seriously, is that sometime in the 1980s a massive conspiracy (by “New Evangelical” interests) engineered the appointment of scholars in departments of Religion, Classics, Ancient History, etc., and that it managed to skew scholarly opinion, even among Jewish scholars and people of n0 religious affiliation, to support the historical existence of a Jesus of Nazareth.    Hmm.  That’s right up there with the notion that the Twin Towers were destroyed by the CIA!  (Is there something in the drinking water nowadays in some places?) Certainly, many of those who have engaged the current “mythicist” issue (e.g., Maurice Casey) would be surprised to learn that their views have been shaped ingeniously without their knowing it by this “New Evangelical” cabal eager to prop up traditional Christianity!

But contrary to professor Hurtado's understanding, the difference between Mythicists - people who deny that Jesus of Nazareth actually existed - and 9/11 Truthers, is that the first group must argue against the overwhelming majority of experts who accept  that Jesus actually existed, whereas the second group have the support of over 1700 architects and engineers  to support their position, which by the way, doesn't include the claim that the CIA must have destroyed the Twin Towers. 

Dang, Another Blog I'll Have to Read

My blog list is getting far tooo long, but I don't see how I can avoid adding:

  The Colossian Forum

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Edward Feser Reviews Nagel's "Mind and Cosmos"

My hope that Aristotelian/Thomist philosopher Edward Feser would review Thomas Nagel's book, Mind and Cosmos, has been fulfilled sooner than I could have expected: Aristotle, Call Your Office.

It's nice to have my perceptions of Nagel's views verified.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Advice for Thomas Nagel: Get Thee to the Lyceum

If I were a better philosopher I might try to write an actual review of Thomas Nagel's book, Mind and Cosmos; Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False. After reading his book it is obvious that Nagel is either a Platonist or an Aristotelian. Since he wants to try maintain some sort of philosophical Naturalism, I suggest that he go with Aristotle. Plato maintained that there was an inherent dualism in reality between the world of Forms (or Ideas or Archetypes) and the physical world. His student Aristotle rejected this dualism, maintained the reality of the Forms but insisted that they were inherent in the physical world. He came up with four causes by which the world can be known: Material, Formal, Efficient, and Final causes. Nagel very much wants to maintain that consciousness, ethical values, and teleology are all real, but also that they are inherent properties of Nature. The similarity to Aristotle is too close to be ignored and one wonders why Nagel doesn't just come out of the closet and admit that he is an Aristotelian. I might have more to say later, but meanwhile I recommend reading his book. It's worth it.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Plantinga's Article on Religion and Science

If you haven't yet read Alvin Plantinga's 2011 book, Where the Conflict Really Lies; Science, Religion, and Naturalism, you might want to read the 2010 article on Religion and Science that he contributed to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. It serves as a sort of outline for what he covers in greater detail in his book. The friend who brought the article to my attention noticed that Plantinga is more critical of Intelligent Design in his book than in his article, possibly reflecting further development of Plantinga's thinking on the subject.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Professor, Why do you wear Tennis Shoes?

By the way, that should be "Irwin Corey."

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Global 1937

Paul Krugman argues that the present global austerity policies are reminiscent of what happened in 1937, when the U.S. thought that it was high time to reduce government spending and reduce the deficit. The result: a double-dip depression.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Should I Vote for a Third Party Candidate?

A friend recently sent me this interview of third party candidate Rocky Anderson. He says everything that I want a presidential candidate to say to earn my vote. So should I vote for him? If you're a Republican or just voting for Romney, then you probably want me to vote for Rocky, just so that it takes away a vote for Obama. If you're a Democrat or just voting for Obama, then you probably don't want me to vote for Rocky and instead vote for Obama as a loyal Democrat should. Back in 2000 I campaigned very hard for Al Gore, not because I liked him, but because I didn't want Bush to get elected. I was very angry at Ralph Nader, because I thought he helped insure that Gore lost and Bush won. At this point in time, even though I think Obama is the lesser of two evils, I'm not sure he's that much less of an evil than Romney. So the temptation to write in Rocky is rather strong. Besides, think of the music they could play as he runs up the steps to accept the presidency on January 20th.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Watch 9/11 Truth Video on Colorado PBS

Colorado Public Television has been airing the film 9/11: Explosive Evidence - Experts Speak Out. You can either watch it at their scheduled times or watch it online.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Loki on Free Will

From the movie, "The Avengers":

Loki: I come with glad tidings, of a world made free.
Nick Fury: Free from what?
Loki: Freedom. Freedom is life's great lie. Once you accept that, in your heart...
[he turns to face Selvig who's standing behind him and places his spear against Selvig's heart]
Loki: You will know peace.
[he uses his abilities to control Selvig's mind]

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Todd Wood Reviews Jason Rosenhouse's Book

Young Earth Creationist and biologist, Todd Wood, gives a mostly positive review of Jason Rosenhouse's book, Among the Creationists: Dispatches from the Anti-Evolutionist Front Line.


I thought I should add a passage from Wood's review:

"... I also detect hints of a humanitarian decency about him [Rosenhouse].  Early in the book, he confesses that interacting with creationists changed his outlook.  “They are no longer defined by a few odd beliefs you have heard that they hold.  They become actual people, with depth and personality and reasons for the things they believe” (p. 15)."

I think this passage reveals the chief problem with internet exchanges:  We lack the normal interaction one has with people of different persuasions.  We do not see their faces.  We do not hear their voices.  We are left only with what they write.   So we see and read the part of them that is the most difficult to accept.  And we react in negative or hostile ways that we would never use if we were talking with them in person.