Apr 28, 2010

You Are My Favourite

... activity.

You know what I'm talking about.

Yes, I really do enjoy working out if it's meant to be a comma rather than a full-stop for all the possible kinds of Chicago 15A refs; it's just great. And as for the difference between a comma and a semicolon; well, I've got that in the hat. IN. THE. HAT ! ! ! Employers love this kinda thing too, which is why I put it on my blog. (Which I'm maybe hoping they won't read anyway..)

Which of course reminds me of this http://xkcd.com/137/

The Equivocation Trap

http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/panelists/richard_dawkins/2010/03/the_faith_trap.html

It is clear the author has not heard of (e.g.) Socialism, Nationalism, or for that matter National Socialism; neither, as one of the commenters on the article pointed out, has he considered what would happen if he changed his mind on the age-old question which he studiously walks in concentric money-making circles around (the God question.)* There are problems with simplistically equating religion with poison.

One of them is that it's simplistic
(a heuristic of 'simplicity' is useful in science, but less useful when attempting to create an argument.)

Another is that it's hard to be consistent on the matter.

The author has elsewhere I believe described himself as a "cultural Christian" and in this very article takes some pride in being polite enough to say grace at his university's fancy dinners occasionally, unwittingly drawing attention to the (unpoisoned?) background of these kinds of institutions and indeed the persistence of God there.

*There might be some fuss but I suspect that given the age attained he'd soon be written off as tainted through relative lack-of-telomeres or whatever else would prevent his followers from shifting out of their familiarly comfy faith-based positions. Yes, I did just write that.

"Nature for the idolaters of the earth is just as much an unconscious anthropomorphic projection as the God of the Feuerbachians"

from Maverick Philosopher (haven't read the full linked essay but you're welcome to)


This looks, as my French, German and perhaps Latin (Roman?) readers may appreciate, interessant too:
http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2010/04/life-without-questioning.html

Apr 26, 2010

Don't Undermine New Zealand!

(So say the huggers of herbs who wish to oust the current nasty capitalists from the seat of governmental power, so that they can sit in said seat rather than doing whatever they do in-between protesting.) Anyway, I wondered if they noticed how ambiguous the phrase is?! Are they trying to tell us that we're not mining enough?

This is a spade:


Thanks Clipart.

Apr 22, 2010

please explain

It's been a week; an intense (well, not really, I'm only doing 4 papers, I've just spent a little long on my assignments &/or on Facebook..) tiring week, but I may as well write something. Please interact with the material below if you feel the need. I'm not making any pretensions to rigour in my use of terms; I am aware of various distinctions amongst "atheistic", "materialistic", "deterministic" etc but don't think they're too crucial here. In the future I may bolster my actual arguments with appeals to genuine authorities and remove any particularly glaring errors that you find, but for now and forever: soli Deo gloria.

Atheistic materialists often suggest that pointing to God is always an inadequate explanation.

It seems they do so for two (or so) reasons:


1) If things that God is said to explain need an explanation, then surely God is, as it were (to butcher a nicely French-sounding phrase) ‘hoisted by the same petard’. a.k.a. “who made God?”

2) God is no use as an explanation, as “God did it” could explain anything and hence can't explain anything. Forget about Spirit and persons and stuff and stick with what we know, or else don't claim to have explained something.


It is the second that I’ve had a little thought on, though they are related as I see it. The first is not, I feel, a serious contender in the race for philosophical greatness. It is part of the definition of God that He is a being who has always existed. I’m not sure on the metaphysical or ontological details of “necessary existence” and don’t feel that I need to be to reject the “who made God” question as misunderstanding the (mono)theistic position. Ultimately, sceptics seem happy to accept the reality of various brute facts (e.g. the initial conditions of the universe) without requiring further explanation. Yet philosophically there is little reason to think that these actually constitute a final explanation; people who accept them as such are simply sceptical about whether we can find an earlier cause, not that this stops many inventing billions of other universes and such for the sake of having something "scientific." Maybe you don’t think the claim that God is ontologically necessary is plausible, but I doubt that if we are actually interested in finding explanations that it can just be written off. There is plenty of literature on the subject, which the new atheists will of course compare to “learned books of fairyology” nonetheless, this philosophical literature exists, as convenient as it may be to ignore it. Note that ignorance via the well-trodden path of ridicule is nevertheless ignorance still.

The second: based on assumptions concerning what it means to ‘explain something’ - and without plenty of work in the philosophies of metaphysics, science and mind, quite circular. Some materialists will seem to want to insist that all explanations be purely deterministic (or in some cases perhaps probabilistic; it makes little difference) i.e. involve said determinists being equipped with labcoats and employed by the government in the making of impressive lists of unbroken causal series, preferably involving lots of nice solid physical objects (solid objects are decidedly not like God (quantum mechanics and the incarnation aside – no one said you had to know anything to be an atheist; after all, it’s just a lack of belief isn’t it?!), so they have intuitive appeal for those who don’t believe in Him.) Something like "you've only explained something if you've pointed to something(s) that happened before and caused it and was itself caused (deterministically), meaning it couldn't have been any other way." If we go ahead and define “explanation” according to the whims of these people, perhaps we ought not be surprised in hearing one of the less-evolved ones soon shout out “Eureka, God is dead!” Of course, their conclusion would be slightly premature insofar as it follows pretty much directly from their assumptions.

Many atheists will admit that when it comes to the beginning of the universe, they ultimately have no good explanations. Something somewhere will have to be a brute fact – it may as well be physical stuff or its quantum constituents, right? When science and philosophy begin to question the eternity of matter/energy (and time) the materialist may still become uncomfortable. What we can know for certain (i.e. on the authority of a true scientist) however is that this provides no evidence for the beliefs of Christians. For, well, they’re just whacky! Anyway, said materialist will much prefer to live in happy ignorance of any possible non-physical/scientific causes as these would, it is said, plainly be irrational and/or inaccessible to reason (whatever the r-word is.)

I’m going around in interesting but ultimately non-question-answering circles here; but the problem as I see it is that the universe is not “necessary.” It had a beginning and it it appears, could have been otherwise (as an example, the notorious physical-constants-fine-tuning issue.) Contingent facts such as these beg for some kind of explanation. The atheist crys that God is no better than his nicely ordered list of brute facts (say “the multiverse” and associated multi-verse creating systems) but she is far too quick to rule out non-deterministic causes. If the universe is in fact contingent, then looking for a deterministic cause is silly. Yet we are inclined to look for some cause; maybe we just evolved that way (to look for causes), but why beg the question? Positing a personal cause admits that it could have been otherwise, but there is a reason why it isn't - a person chose this option.


A personal agent who willed it into being makes sense of the existence our contingent universe and the astounding details therein. The atheist (conveniently turned into a pseudo-agnostic and hoping you won’t notice it) declares that things related to the start of 'all physical stuff' are “unknowable” etc. The truth is that 'cause' even in physical systems is hardly understood, so I can doubt even your most cherished 'explanations' if so inclined. But why not look more closely into accepting an actual explanation, a personal one, involving the exercise of libertarian free-will, in a similar way to which 'intentions' can be used to explain the creation of this very blog post? Particularly if everyone so dreadfully wants Christianity to be true, as is so often suggested but seldom followed through. Theologians will rightly claim that God is not in any case completely inscrutable, so those looking for causes do in fact have somewhere to go and 'God did it' will not explain "absolutely anything" with much plausibility; however, ultimately we must stop somewhere. The atheist stops in no man's land and pretends to be content. Let us not leave her there.

I note as an aside that Christian i.e. trinitarian theological reflection and revelation (e.g. the incarnation) hold particular promise in thinking about related concerns. God is not purely abstract or disinterested in the physical world.

Update: found this by biologist Denis Alexander, including the quote I believe to be tangentially related to the above discussion (emphasis added):
A second theme that we often find in the early natural philosophers is the idea that the contingency of God’s actions encourages an empirical attitude towards the natural world. The God of the Bible can do what he likes, and it is up to natural philosophers to determine this empirically, it cannot be worked out from first principles as the Greek rationalists mistakenly thought. Contingency stems from the free will of the omnipotent Creator. This point was made explicitly by Cotes in his preface to the second edition of Isaac Newton's great work the 'Principia Mathematica' in words clearly approved by Newton himself: 'Without all doubt this world...could arise from nothing but the perfectly free will of God....These (laws of nature) therefore we must not seek from uncertain conjectures, but learn them from observations and experiments.’

Apr 15, 2010

"but dude, atheists are just smarter!" *preens*

This has come up a bit recently, so I think this is worth reading:
http://www.beretta-online.com/wordpress/index.php/religion-and-education-what-has-actually-been-shown/

on a vaguely related note: http://m-francis.livejournal.com/101929.html

who reads this stuff??

On an average day there are about 3 of you joyous (I hope you're joyous) citizens of the interweb who visit this blog; this has gone up to about 7 on special occasions. This year there have been ~50-100 individuals who've shown more than fleeting interest.

WHO ARE YOU?

Sure, I have my loyal followers who've outed themselves officially, but so few that I can count them on my digits and have plenty spare to type with. It seems that there must be others apart from the random Russian person and spambots who have visited.

If anyone brave reads this, they'd be most welcome to leave their name in a comment, it would help prop up my ego, which slips without constant reinforcement ;) More importantly, please tell me what to write about, or else the creative juices will dry up and/or the blog will become increasingly bizarre and detached from reality as my self-esteem plummets :(

In future times I might write about: Natural Selection, the Multiverse, Poverty, Fair Trade, 'Trust' in Science, the Theology of Genesis, Scientific Law and Symmetry, the early Church and the Philosophy of Mind; I might produce some more poetry (though I think I'm about out for a while) and update and publish some longer essays from my phil courses or which I've posted elsewhere - if anyone cares about (e.g.) the Natural Law tradition, Scientific Realism in the history of Astronomy, Plato's view of the soul or Hume's argument against miracles. But predominantly, in the absence of comments, the blog, should it continue, will turn into a summary of my lectures and thoughts on them, in order that I may achieve these elusive "A+s" that I've heard about.

Have a cool day.

Apr 14, 2010

another one bites the dust

There aren't too many leading philosophers whose passing I shall note. This, however, is one.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/culture-obituaries/books-obituaries/7586929/Professor-Antony-Flew.html

Two atheists I've discovered today who actually went the whole way are Edward Feser, a Roman Catholic philosopher and David S Oderberg, influential in non-consequentialist ethics (I've read his stuff before, but didn't realise he was previously skeptically inclined.)

Apr 11, 2010

Finally, he gives us some Economics!

Well, kind of.

It's not often that I shall quote my textbook on International Trade (mine in the sense that I bought it off trademe, not that I wrote it) but as I just opened it (also not something I have done, or likely will do, often) this struck me:

God did not bestow all products upon all parts of the earth, but distributed His gifts over different regions, to the end that men might cultivate a social relationship because one would have need of the help of another. And so He called commerce into being, that all men might be able to have common enjoyment of the fruits of the earth, no matter where produced.
Libanius (AD 314-393), Orations (III) [quoted in Feenstra & Taylor, International Trade, p95]

Libanius was a pagan, but had a brain on him nonetheless; or so it would seem.

Apr 10, 2010

Apr 9, 2010

too mchu religion

(we all know that atheists, since they spend most of their time on the internet (why, yes sir, I do believe in the existence of hypocrites) cannot spell.)

Anyway, you may like me be wondering why there is so much religion in such a small blog. Why hasn't it succumbed to Natural Selection and died? I guess it's just one of those random results that you get when your 'universe' is part of a multiverse..

But slightly more on topic, I found a book today & almost bought it; "68 Great NZ Scientists" (or somesuch.) It seemed to cover a wide time span; I assume our nation's short history.

Guess who was in it? (Yes, I had to check.) Dr Jeff Tallon. This one, (whose achievements include being a fellow of Trinity College Cambridge a while back) : http://thinkingmatters.org.nz/2010/03/has-science-disproved-god/

Guess who wasn't? A certain professor-lecturer of 1st yr biosci, one of the reasons I am into apologetics. One of his more obvious anti-Christian episodes involved criticising a respected retired professor from our university for having "too much religion." Sorry mate, but whatever you've got in the Science field, it wasn't enough. He was one of my most distinguished lecturers thus far - but on an international scale, many are small fry. Don't worship them, friends.

post number 134

Bought one of these on special today & composed a poem instead of studying or having a life:

The Bible

Is not like other books
Mine has fancy-as looks
With gold lettering and such
It’s blinging.

But strip that all away
That stuff ain’t here to stay
It’s not what this is about
Ensure it’s shouted out:

Donkeys will talk if you cannot;
like Balaam. It’s in there and more.
God is real – check out the Kalam
Argument. He will not be mocked
and He’s left us all a record.

It’s a righteous
list of commands;
demands, made of us
and fulfilled for us.
By Jesus.

It’s about the law and Moses,
and about Good News;
for the Jews, Ethiopians, Croatians
& other nations from star dust;
a God who loves us, He loves you.

The Bible.
It’s the key to revival;
i.e. renewing soci’ty.
BE QUIET PLEASE;
Cos I’m talking ‘bout the Bible

It’s my guide to survival
like a cross between MacGyver
and Night-Rider (some 80s shows)
inanimate but animate
an’ it speaks to yo.

It ain’t dead.
So, it’s like Christ
pressed onto pages;
the eternal rock o’ ages
in small text.

And it’s about sex. And marriage.
Prideful sin and its damage;
the groom and his bride.
The answers: they are not eastside
o’ even westside; they’ inside

The Bible.

Open yours today.


I could have got a waterproof New Testament for about the same price. In hindsight, it could've spawned some pretty cool party tricks. *Oops, just got coke (not beer of course) all over my BIBLE.* Oh yeah, don't worry guys, it's STAIN RESISTANT! Cue awkward Christian laughter. Aha. God loves you. Aha.

You think I'm lame? You know what's lame? Not turning up to parties with a water-resistant Bible. That's what's lame.

stuff I read

I have a large stack of books on the shelf I'm not gonna be reading for a while and a couple in the philosophy of science that I should be reading; but of more interest to you, perhaps, there are various blogs & people around on the internet which seem worth my time, if not yours:

This guy is a NZer and seems to make pretty cool podcasts on various things like philosophy, theology and philosophical theology - and maybe even theological philosophy: http://www.beretta-online.com/wordpress/ He's in the South Island so haven't met him yet, but sooner or later it seems likely. Educational and entertaining; if you have the bandwidth to listen to them, please do - and if you're wealthy and Christian (it's well known that all Christians are either dirt-poor hillbillies or rich televangelists), see his site & help him get to a conference at Oxford.

Alvin Plantinga is excellent, genuinely funny in a subtle way, which is not something I'll say often of Christian philosophers or philosophers in general - there is a debate of him and Dan Dennett floating around somewhere well worth listening to.

"Theaters are the new Church of the Masses -- where people sit huddled in the dark listening to people in the light tell them what it is to be human." A quote from a 1930s film critic was quoted again here: http://blog.beliefnet.com/jesuscreed/ - and reminded me of things that Mark Strom, of Laidlaw college has said. What it means to be human is quite an important question.

Here's another BOOK (if you're not sure what these strange papery things are, I can lend you some easy ones to get you started) added to the wishlist http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1586174312?ie=UTF8&tag=jescre-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1586174312#noop

Apr 6, 2010

Is Science for Real?

Do scientific theories aim to describe reality and are they reasonably successful? I do think so; and as such am a scientific realist of some kind or another.
Reasons:
*The scientific project seems to be doing well, i.e. is progressing.
*Theoretical science is proving to have practical applications.
*Theories have assisted in making impressively-confirmed predictions.
* ...

Is Science for Real, Is God for Real; Is Science for God?

Tentatively, "Yes, Yes, Yes".

You see, an important implied idea in the previous discussion in favour of scientific realism is the so-called “Principle of the Uniformity of Nature” (PUN) and I assure you this is no joke. Without this principle our science, for all its shinyness, is of limited value.
This relates to the concept of "trust in science" that I've mentioned before; science is predicated upon certain forms of trust which scientists have concerning the material world.


More on this once I’ve done more reading for my essay and beyond; I have some ideas but would like them confirmed by the cogitations of experts before I attempt a serious contribution.

Theology 101

God, in heavenly glory, came to earth
He likes to mix things upside down

The King wore purple;
a robe and a crown
of thorns
In early life visited by Magi,
choirs of angels
and shepherds, in a manger
He is friends with wealthy men,
thieves and prostitutes
Utilises the weak
and the despised
to shame the wise
The Lord is sarcastic,
a stern judge
and hilarious

He loves us
I cannot get enough

Apr 1, 2010

So, I've been thinking about Christianity

AND I SUDDENLY REALISED IT'S A CLEVERLY CONSTRUCTED MYTH, WHICH I'VE WASTED HUNDREDS OF HOURS OF MY TIME ON!!?! IT'S OK GUYS, IGNORE WHAT I"VE SUGGESTED; JUST KEEP ON LIVING AS PER USUAL, NO NEED TO CONCERN YOURSELF WITH JESUS &CO - I WAS WRONG, IT'S ALL JUST BRUTE-FACTOID ATOMS AND YOU WERE ALL SO SO RIGHT, IF THAT WORD MEANS MUCH NOW! WHY DIDN'T I SEE BEFORE HOW POINTLESS IT ALL IS??? WE *ARE* OBVIOUSLY ENTIRELY THE RESULT OF PURPOSELESS PROCESSES AND THE ARGUMENTS FOR GOD'S EXISTENCE ARE ALL CRAP - HEY, YOU MAY AS WELL BELIEVE IN SANTA, DUMBASSES! IN FACT, I'M FEELING SO LIBERATED I'LL HAVE TO MAKE MY NEW BELIEFS PUBLIC.


that was a good example of a clumsy april fools post

If you actually want a summary of truth, go to the apostle's creed. Have a nice Easter; I shall in any case.

100% MONEY BACK GUARANTEE

With every Easter egg or hot cross bun purchased, you may not know it, but we receive this unlimited offer, albeit for a limited time.

It's free, it's for real; here's the deal:

With every purchase, considered purchase or other activity somehow related to Easter, He provides:

i) Life to the fullest
ii) Freedom from past wrongs of your own and others
iii) Personal communiqu├ęs from the Creator of the universe

iv) Help with your studies (limited warranty on this item)
v) Healing in the mental/emotional, spiritual and physical realms
vi) Down-payment (includes various other items): the Holy Spirit
vii) Life after deceasement, with the triune God
(provider: God. Addr: 1 Heavenly Place. He answers all cellphone calls, bedroom-phone calls, soccer-field-phone calls, education-institute-phone calls and ordinary prayers.)

Too good to be true or just truly good? It's a free gift, the only cost is your life (which will be given back to you in a vastly upgraded form; a trade-in worth considering IMHO.)

If I haven't been blunt enough already on this blog (maybe you doubt I'm as hardcore as some Christians you've heard of), here's the gist: accept the proclamations of the witnesses to His glory and accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour and you shall receive all 7 provisions outlined above, over a short period of time. I've already got the first six and you can call me crazy but I'm expecting the seventh in God's good timing.

All of the money you've directly spent on reading this blogpost shall be returned to you if you are unsatisfied.


This is not an April Fools' Day joke.