Monday, October 30, 2017

Feser on the argument from indeterminacy

Here.  Please also follow the link to his essay in the American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly.


Sunday, October 29, 2017

Why mental states are not emergent the way solidity is

Are mental states emergent in the same sense that solid states are, or that living states are? Hal and David have been arguing this.

Solidity is not written into the laws of physics, yet, if the particles are configured in a certain way, we have something solid. Similarly, if certain configurations of the physical obtain, an object can be said to be living, even if life is not part of basic physics.

So similarly, "Believes that P" or even "infers P from Q"  are not part of physics, but given certain configurations of the physical, these can still be true of wholly physical human beings.

I think there is a critical difference.In the first cases, someone who knew enough physics could close the question of whether something was solid or not. If I move, am capable of reproduction, if I have a DNA code, etc. if my physics fits all these descriptions, then it becomes simply incoherent to suggest that I'm really not alive.

But in the case of minds it is different. Someone can have no outward behavioral criteria for, say, dreaming that Trump won the election (when election day hadn't happened yet). This happened to me. No one looking at me could have surmised that that was what I was dreaming about, but that inner state, and my memory of that, tells me I was dreaming about Trump winning.

Given the physical, the mental is indeterminate. But we are in determinate mental states, otherwise logic would not work. Therefore the mental is something over and above the physical.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Sure, I'm a materialist!: On defining the supernatural

Suppose I said this: 

Sure, I'll accept that the mind is a physical thing. What I find unreasonable is to suppose that laws of physics presently understood account for the activity of reasoning, because the laws of physics make no reference to reasons and logic. The laws of physics as we currently understand them do not include these in the fundamental laws of physics. There must be some laws that physics has not yet discovered which account for the activity of the mind. 

Eventually we may find out the laws of physics that govern the activity of God. We just don't know what those are yet. But it's only supernatural from the point of view of present physics, in much the way that relativity is supernatural from the point of view of Newtonian mechanics. 

I'm not putting an artificial wall up and say what science may or may not someday discover. If you want to say that in order to call something physical it has to be such and such, and what you are describing cannot be physical, then you have defined the supernatural for me.

Friday, October 20, 2017

C. S. Lewis on homosexuality at his public school

It is interesting that Lewis doesn't think that the main source of what would now be called homophobia is Christian at all. 

The Wyvernians seem to me in retrospect to have been the least spontaneous, in that sense the least boyish, society I have ever known. It would perhaps not be too much to say that in some boys’ lives everything was calculated to the great end of advancement. For this games were played; for this clothes, friends, amusements, and vices were chosen.
And that is why I cannot give pederasty anything like a first place among the evils of the Coll. There is much hypocrisy on this theme. People commonly talk as if every other evil were more tolerable than this. But why? Because those of us who do not share the vice feel for it a certain nausea, as we do, say, for necrophily? I think that of very little relevance to moral judgment. Because it produces permanent perversion? But there is very little evidence that it does. The Bloods would have preferred girls to boys if they could have come by them; when, at a later age, girls were obtainable, they probably took them. Is it then on Christian grounds? But how many of those who fulminate on the matter are in fact Christians? And what Christian, in a society as worldly and cruel as that of Wyvern, would pick out the carnal sins for special reprobation? Cruelty is surely more evil than lust and the World at least as dangerous as the Flesh. The real reason for all the pother is, in my opinion, neither Christian nor ethical. We attack this vice not because it is the worst but because it is, by adult standards, the most disreputable and unmentionable, and happens also to be a crime in English law. The world may lead you only to Hell; but sodomy may lead you to jail and creat a scandal, and lose you your job. The World, to do it justice, seldom does that.
If those of us who have known a school like Wyvern dared to speak the truth, we should have to say that pederasty, however great an evil in itself, was, in that time and place, the only foothold or cranny left for certain good things. It was the only counterpoise to the social struggle; the one oasis (though green only with weeds and moist only with fetid water) in the burning desert of competitive ambition. In his unnatural love affairs, and perhaps only there, the Blood went a little out of himself, forgot for a few hours that he was One of the Most Important People There Are. It softens the picture. A perversion was the only chink left through which something spontaneous and uncalculating could creep in. Plato was right after all. Eros, turned upside down, blackened, distorted, and filthy, still bore the traces of his divinity.

Gardens, Fairies, gardeners and owners

Also from John Lennox's God's Undertaker, p. 40.

Richard Dawkins makes this point in dedicating his book The God
Delusion to the memory of Douglas Adams with a quote: ‘Isn’t it enough
to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are
fairies at the bottom of it?’

The fact that you can think about fairies and be enchanted or terrified
by them does not mean that they exist. The scientists of whom we are
speaking, therefore, are (often, but not always, as we have seen) happy to
let people go on thinking about God and religion if they want to, as long
as they do not claim that God has any objective existence, or that religious
belief constitutes knowledge. In other words, science and religion can
peacefully co-exist as long as religion does not invade the realm of science.
For only science can tell us what is objectively true; only science can
deliver knowledge. The bottom line is: science deals with reality, religion
does not.

Certain elements of these assumptions and claims are so outlandish that
they call for immediate comment. Take the Douglas Adams quote cited by
Dawkins above. It gives the game away. For it shows that Dawkins is guilty
of committing the error of proposing false alternatives by suggesting that
it is either fairies or nothing. Fairies at the bottom of the garden may well
be a delusion, but what about a gardener, to say nothing about an owner?
The possibility of their existence cannot be so summarily dismissed – in
fact, most gardens have both.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The argument from DNA

Here.  Oh, and can we skip the "Flew didn't write his book" discussion? This is an argument, so focus on that, not the personalities.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

William Hasker's Principle C

In William Hasker’s essay, “Transcendental Refutation of Determinism,” he presents principle C, which says
            C) For a person to be justified in accepting a conclusion, the reasoning process must be guided by rational insight based on the principles of sound reasoning.
But if naturalism is true, physical laws govern the world, and people will think and conclude in accordance with the principles of sound reasoning only if physical law (or physical law combined with quantum chance), determine that they will reason soundly. Therefore, Hasker concludes, in a physicalist world, the principles of sound reasoning are inoperative, and condition C is not satisfied.20
Brain processes are physical events. They occur in accordance with the laws of physics, and the laws of reason and evidence do not explain brain processes as physical events. Our brains follow the laws of physics automatically, we obey the laws of logic or laws of evidence, when we do, only when the laws of physics (together with the prior facts) dictate that they do so. We may possibly act in accordance with reason, but never, as Kant would say, from reason. Given this, William Hasker's conclusion principle C applies: the laws of logic and evidence, or as he puts it, the principles of sound reasoning, are inoperative.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Reductionism provably fails in mathematics. Can it succeed in science?

From John Lennox's God's  Undertaker, 52-53. 

The great mathematician David Hilbert, spurred on by the singular
achievements of mathematical compression, thought that the reductionist
programme of mathematics could be carried out to such an extent that in
the end all of mathematics could be compressed into a collection of formal
statements in a finite set of symbols together with a finite set of axioms and
rules of inference. It was a seductive thought with the ultimate in ‘bottom-up’
explanation as the glittering prize. Mathematics, if Hilbert’s Programme
were to succeed, would henceforth be reduced to a set of written marks
that could be manipulated according to prescribed rules without any
attention being paid to the applications that would give ‘significance’ to
those marks. In particular, the truth or falsity of any given string of symbols
would be decided by some general algorithmic process. The hunt was
on to solve the so-called Entscheidungsproblem by finding that general
decision procedure.

Experience suggested to Hilbert and others that the Entscheidungsproblem
would be solved positively. But their intuition proved wrong. In 1931
the Austrian mathematician Kurt Godel published a paper entitled ‘On
Formally Undecidable Propositions of Principia Mathematica and Related
Systems’. His paper, though only twenty-five pages long, caused the
mathematical equivalent of an earthquake whose reverberations are still
palpable. For Godel had actually proved that Hilbert’s Programme was
doomed in that it was unrealizable. In a piece of mathematics that stands
as an intellectual tour-de-force of the first magnitude, Godel demonstrated
that the arithmetic with which we are all familiar is incomplete: that is,
in any system that has a finite set of axioms and rules of inference and
which is large enough to contain ordinary arithmetic, there are always true
statements of the system that cannot be proved on the basis of that set of
axioms and those rules of inference. This result is known as Godel’s First
Incompleteness Theorem.

Now Hilbert’s Programme also aimed to prove the essential consistency
of his formulation of mathematics as a formal system. Godel, in his
Second Incompleteness Theorem, shattered that hope as well. He proved
that one of the statements that cannot be proved in a sufficiently strong
formal system is the consistency of the system itself. In other words, if
arithmetic is consistent then that fact is one of the things that cannot be
proved in the system. It is something that we can only believe on the basis
of the evidence, or by appeal to higher axioms. This has been succinctly
summarized by saying that if a religion is something whose foundations
are based on faith, then mathematics is the only religion that can prove it
is a religion!

In informal terms, as the British-born American physicist and
mathematician Freeman Dyson puts it, ‘Godel proved that in mathematics
the whole is always greater than the sum of the parts’.10 Thus there is a limit
to reductionism. Therefore, Peter Atkins’ statement, cited earlier, that ‘the
only grounds for supposing that reductionism will fail are pessimism in
the minds of the scientists and fear in the minds of the religious’ is simply


The testability of scientism

What science cannot discover, mankind cannot know?

No chance. 

The statement I quoted from Russell above is obviously self-refuting. It is not a scientifically testable claim, so if it is true, it cannot be known to be true.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

An atheist opposes gay marriage


Though I read one comment that doubted that then author was an atheist.

One argument for gay marriage

Historically, people in society depended upon successful reproduction. Hence, barren women were considered cursed (though in the Bible they ended up getting pregnant eventually, starting with Sarah). Think about how people were taken care of in their old age before Social Security. An underpopulated country would be less able to defend itself in a war, for example. But now, this isn't the case. We don't feel that reproductive success is necessary for our happiness, and the world is getting overpopulated. It doesn't bother me that I have only stepchildren, not children. We now choose our own mates (something that most people didn't do through most of the history of the world), and so nowadays we ought to be able to choose our mates in accordance with our sexual orientation, since we are no longer motivated by the need for successful reproduction.

It's something to think about.

Is this discrimination?

Oozielionel: It seems that there is an attempt at a distinction between refusing service to a person and declining to perform a specific service. Masterpiece will sell any cake to any person. However, he will not create certain cakes (Halloween, erotic, same sex weddings). Refusing to sell specific products is different than refusing to serve specific people. On the face it is defensible. However, it may be possible to orient your product offerings in such a way that effectively and purposely eliminates a specific clientele. In most cases this is simple market segmentation. It may break across protected class lines. A clothing store may select product lines specific to ethnic or religious preferences. A book store can select titles favorable to one religion and refuse to care those contrary. Masterpiece Bakery has a viable argument.

VR: That is just the point I was trying to make when I presented the Bar Mitzvah argument. Does Lifeway stores discriminate against atheists by not selling The God Delusion? Of course they will sell a copy of Mere Christianity to any atheist who walks in the door. If a Masterpiece were to tell the gay couple "Sure, we'll bake you a cake. We just refuse to put anything on the cake that indicates that you are a same-sex couple That is not a product we provide." are they discriminating? 

In some cases I think wedding service providers can begin not with refusal but by unrecommending themselves, such as in the case of wedding photography. "It's not that we won't do it, it's just that we need to let you know we're against gay marriage, and think that someone who believes in gay marriage would do a better job." Is THAT discrimination, or just honesty?

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The opening chapter of C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea


When did gay marriage become legal?

The first gay wedding in America took place in 1969 at the Metropolitan Community Church in Huntington Beach, CA. Nobody went to jail because of it, so I take it that means that gay marriage was legal in 1969. 46 years before Obergfell.

Some Christians may not be too pleased about this, but it looks as if Christians invented gay marriage.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Bar Mitzvah Catering Services, and the Cake debate

 What if I set up a catering service to provide catering to Bar Mitzvahs. Would I be discriminating against non-Jews if I did that? After all, I would be willing to cater anyone's Bar Mitzvah, whether or not they were Jewish. 

Are Christian bookstores discriminating against nonbelievers because their stores carry only Christian-oriented books? Could an atheist sue Lifeway Christian Stores because they refused to special-order The God Delusion?

If one were to open up a Christian bake shop, or a Christian flower shop, could one then refuse to serve a gay wedding? If you define your product sufficiently, could you avoid the discrimination charge? What we sell, you might state, are Christian-compatible flower arrangements or wedding cakes. Anyone, gay or not, can get a Christian-compatible flower arrangement or wedding cake. How is this different from having a Christian bookstore or a Bar Mitzvah catering service. 

Apparently you can define your product as something that appeals only to one group without being accused of discrimination. 

The Christian Response to gay marriage? C. S. Lewis says R-E-L-A-X. Or was that Aaron Rodgers?

Should Christians react about gay marriage? Jonty Langley, appealing to C. S. Lewis, thinks so. 

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Sunday, October 01, 2017